JACKSON, Miss.— Mississippi’s largest community college has been put on warning by its accrediting body, which cited financial problems and other issues.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, in a statement June 23, said that Hinds Community College was sanctioned because it’s violating accrediting rules related to a sound financial base and stability, as well as the effectiveness of its educational programs.
Academic accreditation is supposed to be a guarantee of basic quality, and it’s required for students to receive federal financial aid.
A warning is the lowest public level of sanction. Hinds has a year until its next review to demonstrate improvements, and remains accredited in the meantime. At that time, Hinds could be cleared, kept on warning, placed on the more serious sanction of probation or see its accreditation revoked. Few colleges ever lose accreditation.
“The commission’s decision to issue this warning to the institution has no bearing on our daily operations; it will not affect federal funding, including financial aid available to students,” Hinds President Clyde Muse said in a statement.
Muse blamed the financial findings on state budget cuts. Statewide, community colleges started the current budget with $265 million in state funding, but a series of cuts will start next year in July with $237 million. Muse said Hinds will have $4.4 million less next year. Combined with declining enrollment, he said that means the college has been spending its savings in the last couple of years.
Muse said that in the upcoming budget, all departments were required to cut their budget by 6 percent. He said the college is trimming employees through attrition, increasing minimum class sizes, reducing spending on adjunct instructors and limiting travel. Hinds also raised tuition by 8.5 percent, raised the cost of meal plans and increased fees.
Spokeswoman Cathy Hayden said she didn’t know the basis for the institutional effectiveness finding. That relates to whether Hinds is identifying expected academic outcomes, measuring achievement, and showing that it’s improving student learning and its overall academic program.
The 11,500-student community college, which serves Hinds, Rankin, Warren and Claiborne counties, was being considered for a normal 10-year reaccreditation. Muse said Hinds had met with commission officials in September and submitted more information in February.
Despite similar state budget cuts, East Mississippi Community College and Northwest Mississippi Community College received normal 10-year re-accreditation without any sanctions. Hayden said she couldn’t speak to why Hinds had been sanctioned and those schools had not.