Is it time for the City of Augusta to help Paine College financially?

Paine College graphic
Paine College graphic

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) –  Despite several million dollars raised in the past couple of months to help keep Paine College open, the historically black college still needs funds to continue educating its students. Because of financial issues with the school, the accreditation body, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, recommended pulling the status from Paine last week.

In the last few years, the city of Augusta gave Paine college millions of SPLOST dollars to build the HEAL complex, which houses Paine’s gymnasium. Now, Paine needs money to save the entire institution, but is the city willing to help again?

“To hear those words it’s disheartening,” Vernon Zinnerman told News Channel 6.

A recommendation for a loss of accreditation.   That certainly is not the headline rising senior Vernon Zinnerman wanted to read about the school that will confer his degree this year. Yet, he has faith.

“When Dr. Sullivan says anything to us we know it’s the truth,” he said.

The psychology major and six generation Paine-ite said he has the utmost respect for his president, who announced last week that the historically black institution will appeal the SACSCOC recommendation.

“We’ve had challenges, some greater than this one, and we’ve prevailed.  So, I do trust and believe that I will receive my degree from Paine College and it will be accredited,” he confidently stated.

Paine’s leadership told the public the school is sound academically and its only issue is financial, a problem that the school’s former historian said could be helped by the city.

Mallory Millender said, “The city is literally in a position of saving Paine or letting Paine die.”

Millender, who is faculty emeritus at Paine, recalls when the school did receive taxpayer dollars a few years ago to construct the HEAL Complex using SPLOST dollars.

He remembered, “If the city can give $2.5 million for one building, it ought to be willing to give what’s necessary to save the institution.   And it’s not just for Paine.  Paine contributes to the city and always has.”

Commissioners voted not to give money to Paine and other private groups in this round of SPLOST funding and Mayor Hardie Davis is still not in support of saving Paine through tax dollars.  What he’s willing to do is galvanize the private sector to give.

“To the degree that I can  champion that cause with those folks in the business community and in the private sector I certainly think that’s an appropriate role for the mayor to serve in,” Mayor Davis said.

For students waiting to graduate, the hope remains high.

Paine Junior and Broadcast/Mass Communications major John Marine said, “We’re asking for your help because at the end of the day we’re not just students, we’re people striving to be better individuals for not only just the nation but the world.”

Paine’s President does plan to appeal SACSCOC decision and that process could start as soon as August.  At this time, Paine is still accredited.

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