ARP Synod actions on Erskine College Board questioned concerning accreditation status

“…when there is a major change in governance, colleges are required to report to SACS about the change, and President Ruble did so the day after the church replaced the board members.”

Last week’s dismissal – by a religious body — of 14 trustees of Erskine College (to be followed by reconsidering the status of the remaining trustees) may violate two requirements of the institution’s accreditor, putting its recognition at risk.

Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, said Friday that she became concerned about key rules about institutional independence last week after she read in Inside Higher Ed about the move by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to assert more control over the college.

After a gathering of church leaders fired trustees Wednesday and announced a new board structure, there is a serious chance that the college could be in violation of at least two standards that are required for accreditation, Wheelan said.

The outgoing president of the college, Randall T. Ruble, said in an interview Friday that he too believes the church violated accrediting standards. While accreditors do not rush to yank recognition from institutions, they have the power to do so — and thereby to end students’ eligibility for federal student aid.

Erskine, a liberal arts college in South Carolina, is the only higher education institution of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, known as the ARP. One division of the college is the church’s seminary.