New president of Paine College: This Georgia HBCU must be saved

The new president of Paine College, an HBCU in Augusta, hopes to revive the campus.

Jerry L. Hardee is president of Paine College, a HBCU in Augusta. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission voted last year to strip the school’s accreditation over financial issues. Paine sued. Under a consent order, the school retains its SACS accreditation during the litigation, but is on probation.

Hardee became president of the troubled campus in July. He was president of Sherman College of Chiropractic in South Carolina and served as assistant to the president of Valdosta State University and vice president for academic affairs at Albany State University in Georgia.

By Jerry L. Hardee

I am on a personal mission to ensure the long-term sustainability of Paine College with the help of everyone that I can find from the corporate, civic, and religious community that understands and values the legacy and tradition of a historic black college. Earlier this year after having retired from a fulfilling career in higher education and with plans to travel and enjoy my family, I came out of retirement to offer myself to lead this historic institution in Augusta, an institution that many skeptics had all but counted out for good. This fall we welcomed a new freshmen class, renewed interest from our city and county officials and witnessed a resurgence of hope. Paine College is emerging anew.

Paine College President Jerry L. Hardee

Like most Historic Black Colleges and Universities, Paine has a rich history embedded in the annals of self-help following slavery and emancipation. The college has a historic and unprecedented dual board relationship between the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church; a roster of distinguished alumni and unprecedented traditions. The Paine College pride is still exuberant. Most importantly, it has an excellent academic program and dedicated, committed faculty and staff focused on meeting the needs of its students. Having graduated from two HBCUs, my conscience would not allow me to rest knowing that another institution that has educated African-American youth for over a century was on the brink of closure due to a series of mishaps and events that caused the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to take action. This is the back story of the narrative but the real story is that this institution called Paine College is an absolute Georgia treasure and all who love and care for higher education would be encouraged to pay special attention to this gem of a school in the home of James Brown and the legendary Master’s Golf Tournament and the former Medical College of Georgia (now Augusta University).

Why is Paine College necessary? Paine is the only HBCU located in the historic Central Savannah River Area, two-and-a-half hours from Atlanta, and before you cross the South Carolina borders. There are students who are primed for a Paine College experience in education from both the city and the rural areas of Georgia and South Carolina. Paine is that kind of institution that wants to fine tune academic scholars. We want students that have a thirst to achieve and we want to encourage and assist those who need that extra push.

Having attended Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University and Fisk University), I know firsthand the benefits and residuals that quality education and life skills that these institutions bring to so many deserving and sometimes underserved students. Some would argue that we have more than enough HBCUs and that Atlanta is saturated with them. I would say that there is still a need for Paine College in Augusta as well as the other HBCUs.

Like Paine College, most of these institutions were built on the blood, sweat, and tears of pioneering men and women. These institutions have educated hundreds of thousands of students over the last 150 years and have taught them to stand strong and gallant even in difficult circumstances. A HBCU experience is a special experience for those in attendance now and for those who preceded them! The camaraderie, the bond, the relationships, the friendships are unmatched.  They are necessary. Paine is necessary.

Sometimes good students are often penalized for the mistakes and bad judgment of the institutions where they matriculate. Students deserve better and the leadership of any school must be held responsible and accountable. Paine has addressed and corrected those issues cited and is working hard but cannot do it alone. This institution needs your support. Not only financially but sending us students as well. There are many ways you can help.  Here is an opportunity for the community to join in and help this 135-year-old institution fulfill the vision and the Paine Ideal, that every student can and will succeed.

Paine College is the alma mater of many great men and women and is worthy to be supported.  We need the universe to tilt its favor towards Paine and we need those who value education to assist us. Like our great supporter, the United Negro College Fund, says, “A mind is still a terrible thing to waste.”

We look forward to your support as Paine College emerges anew.

Reader Comments 0

13 comments
Leslie D W Jones
Leslie D W Jones

Wishing Paine and Dr. Hardee success.  Unlike many who have posted here, I understand and believe in the power and significance of HBCUs-then, now and in the future.  1st generation and lower income students of color often need the type of environment (small classes, engaged professors) that an HBCU like Paine offers. Students who don't fall into those categories can also benefit from an  education that occurs in an environment that is designed to see them thrive, rather than challenge their presence.  (Not to mention the network of alumni).   Anyone who believes that African-American students are broadly welcome at all colleges across the country hasn't been reading the news.

HAWK2916
HAWK2916

Paine should become a junior college and merge with Augusta Tech. The athletic program will be better and as we all know athletics bring the money.

Tcope
Tcope

HBCU's need to go away. Their time has passed. They are the educational equivalent of Confederate monuments.

redweather
redweather

Without a hefty endowment fund it is always going to be difficult for a small college, whether an HBCU or not, to survive. And in my experience, record keeping tends to be a problem at schools like Paine. Not sure why, but that's probably because they have administrative staff members wearing too many hats (or maybe no hats at all.)

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Looking at Paine's numbers, I don't see much hope for them.  A private college with only 850 undergrad students and a zero balance in endowments, they are in a perilous position financially.  Looking at the student scores, they are abysmal - SAT scores below 390 and an ACT composite average of 16.  (Compare that to Morehouse's SAT avg 500 / ACT 20).  Graduation rates?  Four year graduation rate less than 10% and a six year rate of 17%.


Bottom line, when they shut their doors, no one will notice.

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

The notion that all HBCUs are no longer needed is nonsensical. That's akin to those who believe that "racism no longer exists in America." Poppycock.

There are still THOUSANDS of African American students who need the nurturing environment that only HBCUs provide. For them to reach their potential, HBCUs are absolutely needed. 

Now, all that said, if an HBCU is poorly run -- and, admittedly, some of them are -- it should close. The top tier HBCUs (Spelman, Morehouse, Howard, Hampton, FAMU, Xavier, Tuskegee, North Carolina A&T) continue to produce some of the most talented young professional and entrepreneurs in the country. For example, Morehouse STILL produces the most African American men working on Wall Street. 

Paine has a long road ahead of it. I wish Dr. Hardee and the school's proud alums (one of which is a young, successful dentist I know, who left Paine and graduated with honors from the dentistry school at Georgia Medical College, just down the road from Paine)  the best of luck.

Jack M
Jack M

Paine has been a mess for years now and should have been merged into Augusta State long ago. Shrinking enrollment, and financial mismanagement would have ended the school years ago if it weren't a HBCU and that is no longer a good justification for it to exist.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

I'm not convinced that Paine's problems were students deciding to go elsewhere. There are multiple reasons for financial issues. I hope President Hardee can turn it around and make Paine meaningful and financially sound. HBCUs still fill a purpose but like any College, Paine has to have a sound business model to support its mission.

Astropig
Astropig

With all due respect to president Hardee, the reason that HBCU's are fading away is that their reason for existence has faded away.Black students are actively recruited and welcomed by state supported institutions and the old Democrat governors that literally stood in the door of state universities to keep them out have all lost their power or died off.


Another reason (IMHO) for the slow,steady decline of HBCU's is the dangerous image that they project on graduates. Attending a college sends many signals,visible and otherwise,to potential future employers.Seeking out classmates that only "look like me" signals that team assimilation in the workplace might be problematic at some point in the future.


Finally, the low graduation rate at HBCU's is probably eroding their image among parents and potential students.


https://www.jbhe.com/2014/11/tracking-black-student-graduation-rates-at-hbcus/


The HBCU's have outlived their time. It should be a point of pride in higher education that black students are truly judged by the content of their character in admissions,grading and career prospects.

ATLPeach
ATLPeach

@Astropig Truly spoken like someone that has never attended an HBCU. 


Astropig
Astropig

@ATLPeach @Astropig


No,haven't done that.You're 100% right,as far as you go.But this isn't about me.This is about a societal shift that has made these schools less relevant than they once were.


When the machinery of the state was directed at keeping black students from attending the state supported universities,these schools filled a very important role.Those days are over.They're not coming back-thank goodness.


If these schools had emerged from their heritage days as elite centers of scholarship with high standards and sterling academics,then they would be on solid financial footing.Their alumni would be able to keep them going and build endowments that would allow them to meet challenges and survive.That has not happened.Time for some hard truths in the next paragraph.Brace yourself.


The fact is, a lot of the failing HBCU's have been run into the ground by greedy,selfish incompetents that run them like a club for their friends to make a lot of money and do very little work.It's really sad to look up the backstory of a lot of these schools death agonies (Paine's is ugly also-a fact that gets glossed over by president Hardee above).Their finances often collapse in scandal while the perpetrators bicker over the corpse of a dying institution.Factions form,good people leave and the college usually just fades away while everyone wrings their hands and blames everyone else.All it takes is one huckster president with a heart for larceny and these schools are soon knocking on death's door. With small endowments,they don't have any margin for error. 

alt2AJC
alt2AJC

If black students prefer to go elsewhere for their education then these colleges should accept that times have changed, and either close their doors -- or change their mission.

Perhaps by becoming charter K-12 schools and providing parents with a fresh alternative?


ATLPeach
ATLPeach

@alt2AJC Charter schools haven't proven to be any better than public schools. Please do some research. To even suggest that a college become a charter schools shows that you know very little about HBCUs.