School's Out 

LeMoyne-Owen College struggles to stay open.

At LeMoyne-Owen College, school is out for the summer. But unless the college can raise $3 million by the end of June, Memphis' only HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) may be out for good.

At a meeting last week, the City Council agreed to give $3 million to the college over the next three years. The pledge has not yet been approved by the full council but seems likely to pass. Robert Lipscomb, Memphis chief financial officer and chairman of the college's board of trustees, says that he is hopeful that the state will match funds raised by the city and county governments.

Since the 1990s, the college has suffered a series of financial setbacks. In 2002, the school's $12 million endowment decreased to roughly $10 million, forcing it to cut corners to meet its $11 million annual operating costs. Due to its million-dollar debt, the college was placed on probation in 2005 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, putting it in danger of losing academic accreditation. Since then, enrollment has dropped.

But interim president Johnnie B. Watson remains optimistic. "The accreditation will [almost certainly] be reaffirmed," he said. "We have received a commitment from the city ... and have asked the county and state level for similar commitments."

Councilman Myron Lowery asked the college to provide documents proving that it will use the city funding to cover pre-existing debt. "LeMoyne has had some great managers in the past, but some of them haven't been good," he said. "I just want accountability."

Small HBCUs have been struggling in the past few years, with many people questioning their value.

"We serve a specific niche in the community," Watson said. "Low-income students, students who wouldn't be able to go to school otherwise because of low test scores or low grades, come here and leave with college degrees. Inner-city students feel more comfortable here. They go on to be successful, to serve the community. Without LeMoyne-Owen, what will happen to those kids?"

Though Shelby County is roughly 50 percent African American, almost 85 percent of inmates at the Shelby County Jail and the Correction Center are black.

"With numbers like that," said Lipscomb, "the college must stay open. The cost to society is too great. We have the power to intervene in bad situations and provide direction and support."

New Olivet Baptist Church is holding a carnival on the college campus on June 2nd to raise money for the struggling college. All proceeds from the carnival will go directly to the school.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Infill Frenzy

      When development comes to neighborhoods, who listens to the neighbors?
    • Create Space

      Memphis artists have a new Downtown home.


Film/TV/Etc. Blog


Music Blog

Get Hip to the Hop: Where to Hear Live Rap in Memphis

Intermission Impossible

A Memorial Service Has Been Scheduled for Beloved Actor, Singer Ann Sharp

Beyond the Arc

The 2018 NBA Draft and Creeping Dread

We Saw You

Herb O'Mell, Wine Down for BizTown, Frequent Flyer and More!

News Blog

Memphis Pets of the Week (June 21-27)

News Blog

Thousands Ride Explore Bike Share in First Month


More by Cherie Heiberg

  • Med Alert

    The ailing Med suffers from a list of symptoms: uninsured patients, rising health costs, and aging equipment. Is there a cure?
    • Aug 16, 2007
  • Dog Day

    Animal activists chain off at motorcycle dealership.
    • Jul 5, 2007
  • Q&A: Henry Hooper II

    Green Beret, Secret Service Agent, Insurance Salesman ... City Councilman.
    • Jun 28, 2007
  • More »

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation