Georgetown College placed on probation over financial stability

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FRANKFORT, Ky. – Georgetown College has been placed on probation for 12 months by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools because of concerns about financial stability.

The college, which dates back to 1829, sharply reduced its budget two years ago, cutting 20 percent of its faculty, ending four majors and reducing employee and retiree benefits because of a $4 million deficit and declining enrollment.

Dwaine Greene, president of Georgetown College, said that “a perfect storm of issues” caused the decline in enrollment and resulting cuts to personnel and programs.

In late 2013, a renewal plan was put in place by the college administration and trustees to address the budget shortfalls due to declining enrollment.

In June 2014, the college was sanctioned for failure fully to comply with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools requirements regarding finances.

Georgetown College had been connected to the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 1942, but opted to end that affiliation in 2005. It is among dozens of colleges, including Campbellsville University in Kentucky, that have cut ties with state Baptist Conventions in recent decades.

Greene was not at Georgetown College at the time, but he acknowledges that dissociating with the Kentucky Baptist Convention may have hurt enrollment.

“That’s not second-guessing decisions, because I think responsible decisions were made at that point,” Greene said. “But just in terms of the scope of that decision throughout Baptist churches in Kentucky, I think it damaged us some in terms of enrollment”

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said that disconnecting with Kentucky Baptists clearly has hurt the college.

“The state of affairs for Georgetown College, though tragic, was predictable and even prophesied,” Chitwood said. “In 2005 when then-President Bill Crouch and his trustees chose to disconnect the school from the churches that had long sacrificed to support it, Kentucky Baptists did not stand in their way but expressed grave concerns for the future of the college. SACS probation clearly means that future is in jeopardy since loss of accreditation will devastate the institution. We've been clear that Georgetown could be welcomed back into a covenant relationship with KBC churches. Maybe the school's ongoing crisis will lead them back to their roots.”

In a statement Tuesday, Greene said the school is approaching the new academic year with “a great deal of optimism.” He said the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has affirmed that Georgetown College “has demonstrated significant recent accomplishments in addressing its budget challenges while maintaining its academic quality.”

Greene went on to say that “evidence suggests it is reasonable to conclude that the college will remedy all issues within the 12-month period.”

“Of special note in that vein is both that the college will be working through academic year 2016-17 with a balanced budget, and that indicators are that the entering class this August of 2016 will be the largest in five years,” Greene said. “These are wonderful signs of the successful renewal underway.”

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