Simmons College of Kentucky has become the state’s first private, historically black college to receive national accreditation.
The accreditation was awarded on earlier this month by the Association of Biblical Higher Education, an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
With the recognition, Simmons will become the nation’s 107th Historically Black College and University and be eligible for a $300,000 annual grant from the Department of Education.
At a ceremony Monday, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth said accreditation is important for successful higher education institutions.
It’s not just a recognition of quality and comprehensiveness, it’s a recognition that also brings with it resources, both for the institution and for students,” he said. “This is going to mean so much for Louisville, so much to Kentucky and so much to the country.”
Carl Thomas of the Gheens Foundation presented school officials with a $2-million grant to be used to help stimulate the college’s educational reach.
Simmons College President Kevin Cosby said funding increases and the national recognition that stems from accreditation will boost the school’s ability to aid the revitalization of the underserved west Louisville community.
“People in west Louisville have been socially isolated and the deindustrialization of the country has devastated west Louisville,” Cosby said.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was also in attendance and said Simmons has the potential to help the community.
“Education is the great equalizer,” he said. “So much good has come out of Simmons College. So much that challenged injustice and advanced equality. Simmons graduates are an integral part of Louisville’s history.”
But Yarmuth said he would like to see more Republican support for the funding of historically black colleges and universities—and he took aim at Paul.
“Ultimately its actions and not words,” Yarmuth said. “Until people like Rand demonstrate an empathy and a sense of sensitivity and a willingness to openly vote for programs that help minority communities then it’s just words.”
Cosby said he was happy to have Yarmuth and Paul on hand to show support for the college, despite the impact politics can have on the advancement of struggling populations.
“West Louisville needs advancement. We don’t have time for the political games that some people like to play,” Cosby said. “The most important thing is, in the black community, there needs to be a dialogue with both parties.”
Simmons currently has nearly 100 undergraduates enrolled. It is set to open a campus in west Louisville in 2015.