Around New England

Catholic College Loses Accreditation In Vermont; ‘Fighting Saints’ Hope For Best

December 14, 2018

The New England Commission of Higher Education has voted to withdraw a Catholic college’s accreditation as the small, private liberal arts school attempts to restructure its endowment to maintain its accreditation status.

The College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vermont, founded in 1956, has until April 1, 2019 to provide “new evidence” it has the “institutional resources” to keep its accreditation. The school currently has about 350 students and offers undergraduate degrees in 20 majors, along with graduate degrees in 12 programs.

According to a statement from the school, the College of St. Joseph was placed on probation by the New England Commission of Higher Education this past July and believed it had more time to comply with the commission’s expectations.

College president Jennifer Scott said the agency’s decision “gives us a much shorter time frame than the two years we originally thought we had” and that the college is “exploring every strategic avenue, including the possibility of partnering with another college. Above all else, we are working toward the best possible outcome for our students.”

The New England Commission of Higher Education says it has continued the college’s accreditation through August 2019 “for the sole purpose of allowing students to complete their degree from an accredited institution. Until accreditation is withdrawn, the College of St. Joseph remains accredited and maintains eligibility for federal student financial aid.”

The Chronicle Of Higher Education‘s list of college endowments shows that the College of St. Joseph’s endowment fell 46.09% between fiscal year 2014 and fiscal year 2015, from $5,719,782 to $3,083,698. More recent data were not immediately available.

The college says it has formed a “teach-out” relationship with nearby Castleton State University to ensure current College of St. Joseph students will be able to finish their degree programs should CSJ not make the April 2019 deadline.

Scott said she remains optimistic:

“CSJ is not alone in our fight for survival. Small, private colleges are closing across the country at a rate of about 11 a year. That is an alarming trend to many of us who share a mission of access, affordability, and equity in higher education. Schools like CSJ are essential to preserving the diversity of choice for all students. Even with this new, accelerated timeline, I am still confident that CSJ will find its way forward. We are, after all, the Fighting Saints.”

According to the New England Commission of Higher Education’s web site, it is the “regional accreditation agency for New England colleges and universities” and is “recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a reliable authority as to the quality of education.” The agency accredits 229 “degree-granting institutions” and has accredited the College of St. Joseph since 1972.

The College of St. Joseph web site states that the college was formed when “a core group of courageous women lead by Sr. Mary Matthew McDevitt, the college’s first president, formed St. Joseph’s Teacher’s College.” At the time of its founding in 1956, the school became affiliated with Catholic University of America. In 2008, the school formed a a unique program with other Vermont institutions to help foster children attend college; in 2015, the College of St. Joseph was named in the top 100 “Best Bang For The Buck” colleges in America by Washington Monthly.

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