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Nation's oldest black college struggles to survive
Ohio's Wilberforce faces big problems with finances, enrollment and its facilities

Wilberforce University is the nation's oldest historically black college -- and one of its most endangered.
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As the oldest private historically black college in the nation, Southwestern Ohio's Wilberforce University has an extensive history. But StateImpact Ohio's Amy Hansen reports the school's future may be in danger as it faces the possibility of losing its accreditation.

LISTEN: Hansen on Wilberforce's troubles

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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, 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, says the school’s challenges are not new. 

“These are things that have been happening for awhile. They also know, of course, because of their instabilities, that there have been threats to their accreditation, so 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.

In a statement, Wilberforce officials say they’re “committed to addressing the areas of concern.” 

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