Bacone College to temporarily suspend operations due to lack of funds
Bacone College in Muskogee is temporarily closing its doors on May 14. Because of a lack of funding for the college its summer and fall classes are pending. President Frank Willis said the college is in need of about $2 million to continue operations. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Bags of trash and other items lay outside Isaac McCoy Hall, as students were expected to be out of their dormitory rooms on May 11. Nearly 700 students were enrolled for the 2018 spring semester with about 100 students expected to graduate at May 12 commencement ceremonies on campus. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
MUSKOGEE – Bacone College officials said the school would temporarily suspend operations due to lack of funding beginning May 14.
Outgoing President Frank Willis made a Facebook live statement to Tulsa’s KJRH Channel 2 on May 8 announcing the suspension of operations.
The school had an estimated 700 students enrolled in the spring 2018 semester with about 100 students to graduate at the college’s May 12 commencement ceremonies.
“We’ve run out of money, and so we’re temporarily closing as of this coming Monday,” Willis said. “We’ll complete the semester then we’ll lay almost everybody off.”
He said about 95 full-time and part-time faculty and staff will be laid off, with some already receiving notices on May 4.
Willis said the school’s reopening is in the hands of incoming President Dr. Ferlin Clark, who has been working around the country to obtain funds for Bacone. Willis said Bacone has also sought help from tribal nations. The Cherokee Phoenix asked the Cherokee Nation’s administration if it planned on giving any funds to the school but had not received a response as of publication.
Willis said there are “a couple of reasons” why the school is on the verge of permanently closing, including a lack of student tuition payments.
He said though many students adhere to their payment plans, others have been “scamming” or “dodging” to complete their financial work. Willis said student tuition equates to about $2 million.
“Last year we were about $2 million short of completing the year. The American Baptist Home Mission Society, whose missionaries founded this school, provided a line of credit of $1 million, and we were able to get $1 million from other sources, including a loan from me, that got us through last year,” Willis said.
Willis said he hopes the school is able to get approved for another line of credit again this year from the ABHMS and find other sources of money.
Students were given notification that they had to be moved out of their dormitory rooms by May 11 for undergraduate students and May 12 for graduate students, according to a Tulsa World article.
This caused problems for students who live out-of-state or are international students who attend the college. Due to the temporary suspension, students will not be allowed to use a summer housing waiver to continue living on campus.
Willis said the school is expected to close for three weeks, pending funding, to continue into its summer courses and fall semester.
Bacone was founded in 1880 and is Oklahoma’s oldest center for higher education. It was started by Professor Almon C. Bacone, a missionary teacher, who started a school in the Cherokee Baptist Mission in Tahlequah. Seeing the need to expand, the Creek Nation Tribal Council granted 160 acres of land in Muskogee where the school resides.