KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Knoxville College has a rich history in the community, but over the last decade, the college has been crumbling.
Shards of broken glass and long abandoned classrooms are all that’s left in many of the Knoxville College buildings.
“It is pretty much a ghost town,” Mechanicsville resident Brenda Oglesby said.
Oglesby lives across the street from the college and said she hardly ever sees activity on the campus.
“I didn’t see no cars up there, no college people, anybody for about three or four months,” Oglesby said. “Honestly, I thought they shut it down.”
The school is still in fact open, though according to recent board member Frank Shanklin, enrollment at the school is plummeting.
“I believe you have 35 students there now,” Shanklin said. “Faculty members, you probably have 10, maybe 15.”
A campus in disrepair
Knoxville College lost accreditation in 1997 and with it, student access to federal funding.
6 News obtained IRS records showing in 2011, the school had a more than $4 million deficit. That lack of funding has led to the deteriorating campus.
“People who come back for the first time in 30, 40, 50 years, they’re devastated by the looks,” Knoxville College alumnus and Executive Director of the Beck Center Robert Booker said.
Inspection reports with the City of Knoxville show McKee Hall, formerly one of the main campus buildings, was ruled “not safe for occupancy.”
Other buildings across the campus have signs saying the buildings are off limits. Even others are boarded up.
For more than two months, 6 News worked to contact the school’s president Dr. Evelyn Hallman to find out what the school is doing to improve conditions.
We left multiple messages and showed up to her office several times, but never made contact with her. We still haven’t heard back.
Shanklin said the school has hired recruiters to bring in more local students and said administrators are working on fundraising within the community.
“The struggles are hard, but we’re open,” Shanklin said. “We’re keeping the lights on but we need everyone’s help. I think it’s worth saving because of the memories of what it used to be.”
Knoxville College used to participate in a work study program with Pilot, but a spokesperson for Pilot Flying J said that program has been over for at least six years.
Robert Booker graduated from Knoxville College in 1962 when he said the school had between 600 and 700 students.
“It was a place where everybody knew everybody,” Booker said. “It was just a great family atmosphere.”
Booker said as a historically black college, the school made special efforts to help its students succeed.
“If a person came from a large ghetto for example, the college gave testing to find where you were and it used remedial classes and other efforts to get you up to par,” Booker said.
“Knoxville College has contributed mightily to the economy of our city, the cultural well-being of our city so it really has been a great asset over the years,” Booker said.
Knoxville College was originally accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. They were reaffirmed in 1992, but denied in 1997.
Knoxville College has submitted an application with the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, and that application is still pending.
ACICS said the agency will conduct a site visit and will then give the school three months to fix any deficiencies they may find after visiting the school and meeting with administrators.
“I think it’s worth keeping because, I mean, that’s got a lot of history and the history is something we need to keep,” Oglesby said.