WILBERFORCE, Ohio (WDTN) – Staff at Wilberforce University said Tuesday that the Higher Learning Commission, one of the agencies that accredits degree granting colleges and universities throughout the country, has lifted the school from its sanction of probation.

The school was placed on probation by the HLC in June of 2018 after it was determined to be out of compliance with the organization’s criteria for accreditation. Dr. Johnny D. Jones, the university’s provost, chief academic officer and HLC liaison, said the school has been working to make changes to get the school taken off the probationary list.

“The Higher Learning Commission has five standards and they have sub-standards under those five standards,” he said. “So when an institution doesn’t meet those standards or [has] a history of not meeting some of those standards, then the institution [is] placed on probation.”

Jones was initially hired as an outside consultant in February 2021 to help get the school back on track after the HLC gave the school an extension as a result of their COVID-19 policy. His role becoming provost was to help the school meet core components 3C, 4C, 5A, 5C and 5D of the HLC’s compliance plan:

  • Core component 3C requires each institution has the faculty and staff needed for effective, high-quality programs and student services
  • 4C requires the institution pursues educational improvement through goals and strategies that improve retention, persistence and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs
  • 5A requires that through its administrative structures and collaborative processes, the institution’s leadership demonstrates that it is effective and enables the institution to fulfill its mission
  • 5C requires the institution engages in systematic and integrated planning and improvement
  • 5D requires the institution to work systematically to improve its performance

Among the remedies, Jones said a vital piece involved getting the school’s finances back on track.

“It was really looking at making sure that we eliminate some debt, [increasing] our CFI (composite financial index) score, and also just making sure that we allocate resources towards, and operate the institution based on the standard set forth by the HLC,” he said.

He added, remaining accredited was critically important for the students’ sake, as only students at accredited schools are able to receive funding from the federal government. However, as the university worked to reach appropriate HLC standards, Johnson said the probationary did not impact the credit hours students were able to receive or transfer. He said it also did not affect students transferring credits to the school. And while the university had some work to do in order to have their probationary status removed, Jones said staff at the school never stopped working to provide promising opportunities for students.

“We just want to [reassure] all the students that attended Wilberforce University or that were thinking about attending Wilberforce University that we are a fully accredited institution,” said Jones, “and by being a fully accredited institution that we have identified some of our deficiencies and we have handled those deficiencies. Wilberforce has a long history — been around since 1856 — and…by me being the chief academic officer and also the Higher Learning Commission Liaison, I’m going to make sure that we meet those standards.”

In addition, Jones said the school is restructuring all of its academic programs so students will be industry ready upon graduation.

“We are serving students who want to make sure they are coming to an institution that is doing what they are supposed to do, and that’s what we had to do at Wilberforce University once I arrived. So we’re continuing to push forward and we’re going to make sure that we meet all the standards for our comprehensive visit in 2025 and continue to improve our institution as we provide a quality education to the citizens of the great state of Ohio and also beyond.”