by Con Chapman
RUSSELLVILLE, Kentucky. This small town holds few distinctions to attract students to Southwest Kentucky State College, a fact that Dean Floyd Morglin works hard to counter. “We remain the only institution of higher learning located in a town with three double letters,” he notes with subdued pride. “We’re thinking of adding a Bookkeeping major to capitalize on it.”
But SKSC’s lack of prestige isn’t solely attributable to its location. “We struggle with accreditation,” Morglin admits. “I thought once I got my PhD I wouldn’t have to take any more tests, but those people won’t get off my back.”
Morglin refers to his accrediting body, the Midwestern Commission on Public Colleges, which placed his school on probation last year after a review noted a lack of cappuccino cup holders on armchairs in the faculty lounge. “Every time I turn around they’re making us spend money on non-essentials like books for the library.”
The aspect of accreditation that is most troubling to SKSC trustees is the examining body’s fee, however, a mid-five figure charge that is assessed even if the college doesn’t get a passing grade. “What’s the difference between a flock of starlings and an accreditation team?” Board Chair Nowell Peterson, Jr. asks wryly. When this reporter draws a blank, he says “A flock of starlings will fly into town and shit on your head for a week but won’t send you a bill for it.”
So the school and others like it are fighting back, shopping for lower-cost alternatives to the big accrediting bodies. “We put it out to bid and got two competing proposals, which we’re going to look at real hard,” says Morglin.
The first was from Bluegrass Replacement Windows and College Accreditation, a four-person operation that hopes to get ancillary business if selected. “We don’t need to go inside the library to scope this one out,” says owner Ted Gray. “I drove by and was really impressed with the number and variety of windows they’ve got out there.”
Another company that expressed interest was Raceway Rebuilt Engines and Council of Schools and Colleges, located in a run-down concrete block building on US Highway 68. Chief examiner Tony “Pigpen” Murillo says the humble headquarters are deceptive, and that he’s ready to hit the ground running if his firm is selected. “I don’t think either of the other bidders has as much experience as I do,” he notes as he scrubs oil off his hands with an abrasive hand cleaner. “I went to three colleges in two years before dropping out.”