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Kentucky Wesleyan gets warning on accreditation

By Keith Lawrence The Messenger-Inquirer

OWENSBORO - The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has renewed Kentucky Wesleyan College's accreditation with a warning.

That comes as a response to the college's financial status, which has dropped along with enrollment in recent years.

But KWC President Craig Turner says the college has turned the corner and things are getting better.

"It's been a problem for several years," he said of the school's declining enrollment and finances.

"We need to recruit more students and raise more money. I tell people to pray for us, send us students and send us money."

Enrollment peaked at 1,256 students in 1966 when the Vietnam War was escalating and full-time students could get a deferment from the draft. It stayed above 1,000 until 1969-70.

But enrollment had fallen below 600 a couple of years ago.

"The 2013-14 year was the first increase we've seen in awhile," Turner said. "It was slight but we're expecting between 625 and 650 students this year. Enrollment deposits for the fall semester are up 46 percent." 

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges wants KWC to boost enrollment to between 800 and 1,000, he said.

The school raised $2.2 million last year, but $1.9 million was restricted in what it could be used for.

"We need to raise $1.25 million this year in unrestricted funds," Turner said. "That's the bottom line. We've got to get gifts coming in."

Turner became president of the private college in 2011.

"I came in when changes were already taking place to boost enrollment," he said. "It's a team effort."

The school is using a grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation to hire a "retainer" to work on keeping students from dropping out after their freshman year.

Nationally, Turner said, that's when students are more vulnerable to dropping out.

"We have a great class coming in this fall," he said. "And we've had more than 11,000 inquiries for the fall of 2015. We've come out of the recession of 2008, which hurt us, and we're moving forward."

Turner said he met with faculty and staff Thursday to tell them about the accreditation warning.

"The vast majority of them are enthusiastic about what we're doing and where we're going," he said.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges said it will review KWC's accreditation in a year.

The commission's website says that schools that don't make progress in meeting its standards can lose their accreditation.

Turner said KWC is working hard to ensure that doesn't happen.

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