Southwestern receives accreditation warning update, Dockery notes positive steps

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — After a year of evaluation, the board of trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) continued Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SWBTS) “Warning” status during its June 13 meeting, which SACSCOC announced June 17 on its website. The Board noted three areas of concern last year, but these concerns were reduced to two areas this year.

In June of 2023, SACSCOC announced the seminary had been placed on warning for three matters: fiduciary responsibility of the board of trustees (standard 4.1), financial resources (standard 13.1), and institutional financial responsibility (standard 13.3). The concern for standard 4.1 was not included in this year’s report, which President David S. Dockery noted was “a positive step forward for the institution.”

Dockery noted last year that while a warning was a serious matter, it was not probation and the seminary remained accredited, while he anticipated a two-year process to address the warning.

“The current administration and board of trustees, with support from the faculty and staff, will continue to work diligently to aggressively reduce institutional spending in the current budget year as well as in the forthcoming 2023-24 budget year, which includes significant reduction in personnel costs, while prioritizing the educational mission of the seminary,” he said.

In response to this month’s SACSCOC action, Dockery acknowledged the seminary has “ongoing work to do” addressing the remaining sanctions.

“Due to the timeline of financial reporting and the need to demonstrate positive trends over multiple fiscal years, it was our expectation that a full review of financial progress would not be possible until June 2025,” Dockery noted.  “We pray for the Lord’s ongoing enablement as we take the next steps, even as we stop to give thanks for this visible marker of progress in our efforts toward institutional stability.”

During his report at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Indianapolis earlier this month, Dockery noted “markers of renewal” at Southwestern. In addition to other steps toward “institutional stability,” Dockery pointed to improvement in the seminary’s financial position.

“Through ten months on the budget calendar, trajectories at this point indicate that the 2024 operational budget will be considerably better than last year, and dramatically improved over the previous year. I am also pleased to let you know that the bottom-line net asset total for this year will show a major increase. Much different from recent years, Southwestern will finish this year with cash reserves and with no short-term debt, for which we offer thanks to God,” he told messengers.

Dockery also pointed to “right-sizing” the faculty and staff and “steady” unrestricted giving and temporarily restricted giving, even with a smaller advancement staff, as well as the sale of the Carroll Park property.

The next anticipated action from SACSCOC concerning Southwestern’s accreditation status is June 2025.

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