In December of last year, the University of Louisville was placed on probation by their accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The reason cited for this probation was “undue political influence” over the University’s board of trustees. This may be worrying to current and future U of L students for a number of reasons, the first being that if the school loses accreditation a degree from the university would be worthless.
The controversy surrounding the University of Louisville’s accreditation began after former president James Ramsey resigned in July of 2016. Gov. Matt Bevin then attempted to dismiss the entire board of trustees, despite being warned that it was illegal and would place the university’s accreditation in jeopardy.
After this overhaul of the board, Bevin was sued by former governor Steve Beshear on the grounds that he violated the Kentucky State Constitution. Franklin Circuit court judge Phillip Shepherd ruled in favor of Beshear in July, stating that trustees could only be fired with cause. Bevin also likely does not have the authority to reorganize university boards, as they are independent from the state government.
On Jan. 8 of this year, the Senate Republicans passed Kentucky Senate Bill 12. The bill would allow Gov. Bevin to dismantle the current 17 member board of trustees at the University of Louisville and appoint his own 10 member board (with Senate confirmation).
All of this culminates to form an uncertain future for one of Louisville’s two public universities. A loss of accreditation would result in not only a loss of Federal Student Aid, but also an inability to participate in college athletics (schools without accreditation are not allowed to participate in the NCAA). These prospects are worrying to students currently enrolled at U of L, who are afraid that the university may lose accreditation.
“I can’t help but be concerned about this because probation is the last step before revocation,” U of L freshman and Manual graduate Haeli Spears said. “I hope Gov. Bevin understands his impact in this and puts the needs of the university and its students over his partisan interests.”
Students at Manual considering continuing their education at the University of Louisville may also be concerned about the future of the school.
“The potential of losing accreditation didn’t change my mind about applying to U of L,” Claire Bowling (12, MST) said. “It is worrying, but I’m optimistic that everything will be okay.”
The Kentucky Supreme Court has taken Beshear’s case against Bevin, bypassing the court of appeals. It’s unclear how Senate Bill 12 will affect the court’s decision, and no date has been set for oral argument yet.
In a letter addressing the university, the accrediting agency specified that the University of Louisville needs to provide a progress report by Sept. 8 of this year, and if they fail to comply with the accreditation rules and standards within their two year probationary period they will lose their accreditation.