The accreditation status of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been moved to “warning” level by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The warning status decision was made June 15 and applies to all components of the institution — all programs, branch campuses, off-campus sites and distance learning programs — SACSCOC reported June 23.
According to Disclosure-Statement-SWBT-J2023-2 found at sacscoc.org, the SACSCOC board of trustees determined SWBTS “had failed to demonstrate compliance with Core Requirement 4.1 (governing board characteristics), Core Requirement 13.1 (financial resources) and Standard 13.3 (financial responsibility) of the [Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement].”
SWBTS President David S. Dockery said in a statement, “Southwestern Seminary, which has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges since 1969, values the insights and guidance received by SACSCOC and is fully committed to take all necessary steps to address concerns related to the July 31, 2022, financial audit and financial decisions that led to it.
“The current administration and board of trustees, with support from the faculty and staff, will continue to work diligently to aggressively reduce institutional spending in the current budget year as well as in the forthcoming 2023–24 budget year, which includes significant reduction in personnel costs, while prioritizing the educational mission of the seminary,” Dockery said.
“We will continue to focus on budgetary and organizational restructuring in the coming academic year, prioritizing institutional stewardship to demonstrate the financial soundness of the seminary. We look forward to working with SACSCOC in the coming months to demonstrate our commitment to fulfilling all its accreditation standards.”
The expectations are for an educational institution to:
- “Have a governing board of at least five members that:
- is the legal body with specific authority over the institution
- exercises fiduciary oversight of the institution
- ensures that both the presiding officer of the board and a majority of other voting members of the board are free of any contractual, employment, personal or familial financial interest in the institution
- is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or institutions separate from it
- is not presided over by the chief executive officer of the institution.
- “Have sound financial resources and a demonstrated, stable financial base to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs and services.
- “Manage its financial resources in a responsible manner.”
Next review in June 2024
SWBTS officials have one year to provide a monitoring report addressing the areas cited as noncompliance by the SACSCOC board. The board will review the report in June 2024 and determine next steps, which could clear the warning status if compliance is met. Other action would be taken if not.
An educational institution can remain in warning mode for up to two years. More serious statuses include probation and removal.
To gain or maintain accreditation with SACSCOC, an institution must comply with the policies and procedures of SACSCOC and the standards contained in the Principles of Accreditation.
“SACSCOC applies the requirements of its principles to all applicant, candidate and member institutions, regardless of type of institution (public, private for-profit or private not-for-profit),” according to sacscoc.org.
SACSCOC’s mission to assure educational quality
Using a peer review and self-regulation process, SACSCOC’s mission is “to assure the educational quality and improve the effectiveness” of its member institutions, which are degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states.
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia make up the primary membership, according to sacscoc.org.
SACSCOC also accepts applications for membership from institutions in the other 39 states and has members in Latin America and other international sites.