Bennett College‘s deadline to raise $5 million to help keep their accreditation arrived Monday. Following a 90-minute gathering Monday afternoon, school officials announced that they’ve raised $8.2 million.

Hundreds have been working to maintain the school’s accreditation after the board of trustees with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges voted to remove Bennett’s membership due to financial instability in December. 

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“When we were cited in December that we would be removed from membership in SACS, we were told that we did not meet one standard, which was financial resources. And so, SACS has 90 to 95 standards, and that’s the only standard we did not meet. So, to that extent we have to produce $5 million to demonstrate financial stability,” Bennett College President, Phyllis Worthy Dawkins said.

“This $5 million can be used to support operations of the institution, can be used to support student gap funds and can be used in a variety of different ways,” Dawkins said. “We also are still liquidating some of our assets, so that does not include that amount (already raised), and we’re also seeking loan forgiveness, so a combination of things will make up the $5 million, so I feel confident we’re going to make it.”

As part of the fundraising goal, High Point University made a $1 million donation on Friday.

Dawkins said she never wants to be in this situation again and has a plan to keep Bennett’s future bright.

“Build an endowment, growing scholarship dollars, re-engineering the institution, changing our business model, looking at market-driven majors, so there’s a variety of things we plan to do,” Dawkins said. 

Dawkins said if they didn’t reach their goal, they would file a lawsuit against the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. If the school was denied accreditation, Dawkins said they would switch to a different accreditation organization.

The formal appeal to keep Bennett College’s accreditation is Feb. 18. They will know the accreditation board’s decision on Feb. 25.

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