Saint Augustine University, Commencement, HBCU

Saint Augustine’s Hosts Commencement As HBCU Risks Losing Accreditation

Saint Augustine's is in the midst of appealing the decision.

Saint Augustine’s, an HBCU in North Carolina, hosted what could be its final commencement ceremony on May 4. The school is set to lose its accreditation.

The school, founded in Raleigh in 1867, currently stands as one of three HBCUs in the area. However, it failed to meet financial oversight standards set by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS). In the midst of the school year, Saint Augustine’s learned that the issue would lead to SACS taking away its accreditation.

With the HBCU’s future in jeopardy, its newest alums used the event as a call to action. NPR reported on the choice of words used during its pivotal commencement ceremony. Ariana White, student body president at Saint Augustine’s, tried to instill hope in her fellow graduates to keep their legacy going.

“We’re just going to keep praying. We’re just going to keep fighting,” expressed White. “With my class of 2024 – us being COVID babies, we don’t give up easy. So I just want to let it be known that with us being the new alumni, we’re not going to let our school go down at all.”

However, White’s final year was stricken with financial woes, impacting her experience and education beyond the pandemic. Saint Augustine’s failed multiple times to pay its faculty and staff on schedule, leading to virtual learning toward the end of the fall semester. Students returned home as the HBCU struggled to regroup.

However, this issue is not unfamiliar to other HBCUs. Most notably, Morris Brown College in Atlanta lost its accreditation over 20 years ago. Moreover, the school only earned it back in 2022. Its journey indicates the years-long effort of an unaccredited school to regain its footing.

Despite the decision, Saint Augustine’s hopes to continue educating its primarily Black student body. They have appealed the decision, which awaits SACS’ approval.

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