Knoxville College president explains school's long-term struggle

Knoxville College president explains school's long-term struggles

Dr. Evelyn Hallman Dr. Evelyn Hallman
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville College President Dr. Evelyn Hallman explained the school’s struggles and efforts to improve following a 6 News investigation into the school’s decline.

Hallman has served as president of Knoxville College since January 2014 and said she’s determined to improve conditions at the historically black college.

“One of the things we've been trying to do is strengthen the relationship between the college and the community," Hallman said.

Last month, a 6 News investigation revealed the school has significantly declined over the last decade and a half, losing accreditation in 1997 and accumulating more than $4 million in debt.

Previous story: Knoxville College: A school in disrepair

“I think we missed some opportunities in terms of bringing the community in and letting them know where we are and how they could actually help us," Hallman said.

Its massive debt led to the school’s inability to maintain much of its property.

"We had someone who was the president at the time who borrowed some money, and we had difficulty in terms of paying that back," Hallman said.

Hallman said out of more than 20 buildings, only four are still in use.

Hallman said the school is considering selling buildings on the lower half of the campus to help dig itself out of debt and decrease its expenses.

“We're looking at several options,” Hallman said. “One of them might very well be in terms of selling part of the property in order to meet that obligation."

Related story: Federal agencies begin cleaning up hazardous materials at Knoxville College lab building

Repairing the school

Hallman said the school is making an effort to rebuild itself. The first step is trying to regain accreditation.

Hallman said an application is pending and the school is now waiting on a site visit from the accrediting agency.

"They are looking over all the information that's been sent to them, so we are waiting to hear from them in terms of what the next steps are," Hallman said.

Another step is cleaning up the decaying campus.

Saturday, volunteers came out to mow the lawn and pull up weeds in order to clear the pathway along College Street so the school can repair the fence.

Then there’s the issue of declining enrollment and the need to recruit.

Hallman said there were only between 20 and 22 students enrolled in the last spring semester.

"One of the problems is that we had to close the dormitory and as a result of that, a number of the students elected not to return," Hallman said.

Hallman said the school is working with local neighborhood organizations and churches to gather volunteers to help with recruitment.

Only two of the students last semester were U.S. citizens, and therefore, the school is focusing on getting more local students to enroll.

"We did meet also with the Ministerial Association," Hallman said. "They were quite willing to help and one of the things they suggested is actually setting up the recruitment in some of their churches and so forth and also sponsoring a Knoxville College day at the individual churches."

Web extra: Unedited interview with Dr. Evelyn Hallman [Video]

Hallman said there is still a long way to go to improve the school and said at least $1 million to $2 million is needed to make a major difference for the school, but she said she believes the school can one day recover.

“One of the things that you have to consider is that when you look at the actual state of things you have to make a decision. Either you're just going to fold your tent or you're going to work on the improvements," Hallman said.

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