Founded in 1856, the history of Southwestern Ohio’s Wilberforce University is extensive.
Wilberforce is the oldest private historically black college in the nation.
It had the first African American college president, faced a damaging fire the same night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and housed the first black center for military training, according to the school’s timeline.
But as the university faces the possibility of losing its accreditation, the campus’ future may be in danger.
The collegiate accrediting arm of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has been observing the small, private university for several years.
Last month, it sent out a “show-cause” order to Wilberforce’s interim president Wilma Mishoe, giving her until December to show proof the school should keep its accreditation.
An accompanying letter outlined a laundry list of the college’s problems, including issues with the administration, declining enrollment numbers, and millions of dollars worth of debt.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Marybeth Gasman, a longtime researcher of historically black colleges and universities, said the school’s challenges are not new.
“These are things that have been happening for awhile,” she explained. “They also know, because of their instabilities, there have been threats to their accreditation. This is not something that would catch them by surprise.”
If the university does lose its accreditation, students’ federal financial aid eligibility could be in jeopardy.
Wilberforce officials said they’re “committed to addressing the areas of concern” in an emailed statement.