By Bob Allen
The college commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools voted Dec. 9 to reaffirm the accreditation of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., reversing a decision in June to strip the Georgia Baptist Convention-related school of accreditation and put it at risk of not qualifying for federal financial aid.
The SACS Commission on Colleges voted June 19 to terminate the college’s accreditation for failure to comply with membership standards of financial stability during a maximum of two years on probation.
Brewton-Parker filed an appeal. An appeals committee in September upheld the decision but allowed college officials to submit new financial information that the appeals group warranted sufficient for reconsideration by the full SACSCOC board in December.
The new vote removed Brewton-Parker from probation, giving the school a clean bill of health for the first time since it was placed on probation in July 2012.
“This is a great day for Brewton-Parker College,” said President Ergun Caner. “We are thankful that after reviewing all the evidence SACSCOC removed us from probation and reaffirmed our accreditation.”
Named after Baptist minister John Carter Brewton and businessman Charles Benton Parker, who founded the school in 1904, Brewton-Parker grew rapidly in the 1980s, topping the 2,200 enrollment mark in 1993.
Scandal hit in the late 1990s when a whistleblower filed a federal lawsuit alleging the school was diverting financial aid funds from rightful recipients to athletes on the baseball, soccer and basketball teams.
The federal government joined the lawsuit, and the president resigned in 1997. In 1998 the college agreed to pay $4 million to settle the lawsuit, the largest recovery of its kind in Georgia history.
In 2009 trustees placed the school on an “academic diet” to curb costs, reducing the number of academic majors by half and closing two of three satellite campuses. The total enrollment at Brewton-Parker in 2011-2012 was 629.
In December 2013 the board of trustees unanimously elected Ergun Caner as president. Caner had previously served as dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary before controversy arose over alleged embellishment of his testimony of converting to Christianity from Islam, popular in Southern Baptist Convention preaching circles in the aftermath of 9/11.
Caner said the SACSCOC ruling demonstrates “that the system works” and that Brewton-Parker “is a better and much stronger institution today” than it was four years ago.
“Brewton-Parker College has proved that it is financially stable, fiscally accountable and academically rigorous,” Caner said. “We give thanks to God for this decision, for it was by His guidance we were able to achieve this result.”