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While announcing last week it is permanently closing within the next year, Hodges University failed to report that it also is in danger of losing its accreditation.  

Last December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, or SACSCOC, the regional accrediting agency for Florida institutions, placed Hodges University on probation. Besides the loss of accreditation, probation is the most serious public sanction imposed by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees.   

Hodges University was placed on probation because the SACSCOC board determined “the institution failed to demonstrate compliance with the principles of accreditation, namely, core requirement 4.1 (governing board characteristics) and standard 13.3 (financial responsibility),” according to SACSCOC’s disclosure statement filed after its Dec. 4, 2022, board meeting. “These standards expect an institution to: (1) have a governing board that (b) exercises fiduciary oversight of the institution; and (2) to manage its financial resources in a responsible manner.”  

Hodge’s next review will be this December, when the Fort Myers-based university will have been on “probation for good cause” for one year.  

Hodges University President Charlene Wendel could not be reached for comment Thursday, but when announcing news last week about the university’s intention to close, she cited declining enrollment and ongoing financial challenges that have “created an unsustainable environment.”  

Hodges’ board of trustees made the decision to not enroll any new degree-seeking students this fall and to take steps to begin to cease operations on or before the end of August 2024. Hodges president and board did not mention the university’s probationary status or accreditation.   

Accreditation is the official certification that an institution has met standards set by external accreditors. Accreditation is important because attending accredited programs means students will be eligible for federal financial aid, will be able to transfer credits to another school and will be able to obtain appropriate professional licensure in particular fields.  

“What is the accreditation status of Hodges University? Hodges University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; however, the institution was continued in accreditation for good cause and placed on probation,” according to SACSCOC’s disclosure statement. “SACSCOC accreditation includes all components of the institution—all programs, branch campuses, off-campus sites and distance education programs as reported to SACSCOC; thus, the probation status applies to the entire institution.”  

SACSCOC authorized a special committee to visit Hodges University, which it had been monitoring for two years, the maximum consecutive time for a monitoring period. At the end of the monitoring period, instead of removing the institution’s accreditation, the SACSCOC board extended accreditation for good cause, which it can do if “(1) the institution has demonstrated significant recent accomplishments in addressing noncompliance, and (2) the institution has provided evidence which makes it reasonable for the board to assume it will remedy all deficiencies within a 12-month period, and (3) the institution has provided assurance to the board that it is not aware of any other reasons, other than those identified by the board, why the institution cannot be continued for good cause.”  

Although SACSCOC publicly posted the Hodges University information on its website as part of its disclosure policy, its staff cannot comment further on questions specifically related to Hodges’ case.  

Public colleges and universities in Florida, as well as most institutions in the South, are accredited by SACSCOC, one of seven regional accrediting commissions. SACSCOC publishes a list of the principles of accreditation, the standards an institution must meet in order to be accredited.   

In December, the SACSCOC board will consider the accreditation status of Hodges University following a review of a fourth monitoring report submitted by the institution addressing the standards cited above for noncompliance. The board has four options: remove the institution from probation without an additional report; remove the institution from probation and request a follow-up report at the time the institution submits its fifth-year interim report; continue accreditation for good cause, continue the institution on probation, request a monitoring report, and authorize a special committee; or remove the institution from membership for failure to comply with the Principles of Accreditation. SACSCOC staff will not speculate on what decision might be made by its board of trustees in December, the report notes. It remains to be seen how the university’s plans to close will affect the decision.  

Hodges University, a private, nonprofit institution of higher learning, was founded in Naples as International College in 1990. After longtime Naples residents Earl and Thelma Hodges donated $12 million to International College in 2007, the college was renamed Hodges University in their honor. The university began moving its programs to its Fort Myers campus on Colonial Boulevard in mid-2020 and relocated its remaining Naples faculty and staff to Fort Myers in phases. Since 2021, Hodges no longer held classes in Naples and the Hodges name and logo were removed from its former buildings in North Naples.  

In response to the university’s imminent closing, Thelma Hodges provided a statement Thursday morning about how her family’s investment made higher education accessible to more people.  

“International College and later Hodges U changed thousands upon thousands of lives and families over the years. I have no doubt, and I am certain Earl would feel the same, that our investment in Hodges was the right thing at the right time. Nowadays, education seems to be available and accessible to almost everyone at any time,” Mrs. Hodges’ message reads in part. “Might Hodges have successfully fulfilled its mission? I like to think so. I am very proud of the good work Hodges U has done over the years. I am also very proud that the closure is being done purposefully and in a well-thought-out manner as to take care of our students and staff as best we can.” 

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