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Ohio's Two Historically Black Universities Merging Some Operations

Wikipedia Commons

Ohio's two historically black colleges are neighbors, both about an hour southwest of Columbus, and now they're considering getting even closer by merging some operations.

Wilberforce University president Elfred Anthony Pinkard is calling this a "Collaborative Learning Arrangement" and "shared services relationship" with Central State University.

The two universities will merge information technology, library, housing and food services, Pinkard writes in a joint statement released by the schools this week. Some academic sharing is also possible, while students remain at their respective campuses, located across the street from each other.

The two schools actually started off as one and the same. Located in Wilberforce, Ohio, Wilberforce University was established in 1856 as a collaboration between the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Owned and operated by African Americans, Wilberforce is the nation’s oldest private historically black university.

Forced to close during the Civil War due to declining enrollment and lack of funds, it was purchased and reopened by the AME Church 1863.

The State of Ohio began to fund Wilberforce University in 1887, ending its private school status and establishing a combined teachers' program and industrial department.

By 1941, the program was expanded from two to four years. It legally split from Wilberforce University in 1947 and was renamed as the College of Education and Industrial Arts. In 1951, it was renamed Central State College and eventually gained university status.

In recent years, however, both schools have struggled with financial problems and accreditation accrediation issues. In 2017, the state removed Central State from state fiscal watch, though Wilberforce is currently on probation by the Higher Learning Commission and needs to raise $2 million by June 30.

Pinkard says more details about the shared resources agreement will be announced at a later time.