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Baltimore International College remains open for now

Baltimore International College will not be closing immediately, its board of trustees said Thursday, but its future could lie in merging with another institution or appealing the pending loss of a critical accreditation.

The statement ended a day and a half of speculation about the future of the school, which specializes in the culinary and hospitality industries. The board met Wednesday to decide how to proceed after the Middle States Commission on Higher Education said it would withdraw the school’s accreditation on Aug. 31.

The loss of accreditation would make the school ineligible for federal student loan aid, which about half of the 497 students receive.

In a statement posted to its Facebook page, the school said accreditation was still in place and would be for all classes up to the August deadline, which means summer classes would not be affected.

But what happens after the deadline remains unclear. The board is looking at appealing the commission’s decision, pursuing possible legal action over the decision or possibly merging with another institution.

“The board is seeking ways in which the college can continue its educational programs in Baltimore, and is actively exploring an affiliation with another accredited college or university,” the statement said. “Expressions of interest have come from multiple institutions and discussions are currently taking place.

“Negotiating an affiliation is complex, and the board is moving as rapidly as possible to reach a positive solution.”

The accreditation problem dates to 2007 when the Middle States Commission on Higher Education said the college was in compliance with six of 14 standards of accreditation. Richard Pokrass, spokesman for the commission, said Wednesday that a series of monitoring reports and visits to the school occurred and other actions were taken before the decision was made to withdraw accreditation.

The board’s statement Thursday does not touch on what will happen to incoming freshmen or classes in the fall except that the board hopes to have an answer by the time the deadline hits.

“Beyond [Aug. 30] we need to figure out a resolution to these questions,” school spokesman Kevin O’Keefe said. “And, the board is taking active steps to finding a resolution to the issue.”

“The college recognizes its responsibility to the students that we have to have answers to these questions by Aug. 31.”

The loss of federal student loan aid is crucial to the school, where students received an average of $11,997 in the 2008-2009 school year, the most recent information available, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

Tuition, room and board, and fees at Baltimore International College range from $30,621 annually for hospitality management students to $37,915 for associate degree students.

A nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Baltimore International College received $9.29 million in tuition and fees from students for the year ending June 30, 2010. Revenue from housing and the school’s training businesses in that same period accounted for an additional $3.96 million in revenue, according to IRS filings.