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Baltimore International College seeks to stay open

Baltimore International College made an 11th hour bid Wednesday to hold on to its accreditation, seeking to maintain that key stamp of approval to start the fall semester and keep its acquisition by a for-profit university on track.

The troubled culinary and hospitality school urged a U.S. District Court judge to intervene before its accreditation was due to expire at midnight Wednesday. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education made the decision to revoke BIC’s accreditation in June.

A loss of accreditation would have made BIC students ineligible for federal financial aid, a major source of the college’s funding.

As Wednesday’s hearing stretched until 6 p.m., Judge Marvin J. Garbis, said it “seems likely, under the circumstances” and in the narrow window to make a decision, that he would grant a temporary restraining order to BIC, allowing it to keep its accreditation for up to two more weeks.

“What I’ve got is guaranteed destruction on one side and not guaranteed destruction on the other side,” Garbis said.

The judge’s decision, however, was not available at press time.

A temporary restraining order would bring BIC and the accrediting body back to the courtroom to argue for an injunction that BIC hopes would effectively allow it to keep operating with MSCHE accreditation until the end of the year.

BIC filed the case Tuesday after receiving notice the day before from MSCHE that the school would not be able to appeal its loss of accreditation. School officials believe they should have had the right to contest MSCHE’s decision.

“The school is entitled to know what the rules are beforehand,” said Daniel Prichard, a Dow Lohnes PLLC attorney representing BIC.

The school argued if it keeps its accreditation through December, nearly 100 students will be able to graduate from their programs. The fall semester would also serve as a bridge between the BIC-run school and the deal it reached with Virginia-based Stratford University to take over the school’s operations in January.

“If the school loses accreditation, the lender will foreclose on the building and Stratford won’t be able to go forward with the agreement,” Prichard told the judge.

At stake is the federal financial aid that about 75 percent of BIC’s students receive. Without the federal dollars that make up 70 percent of its tuition revenue, the college would not be able to meet its $950,000 in monthly costs, according to court filings.

MSCHE attorney Timothy F. McCormack of Ballard Spahr said the loss of accreditation should stand because the BIC board of trustees decided in May to seek suitors to take over the school.

“It is not a life-and-death situation because the decision that the Baltimore International College would cease operation came a month before” notice from MSCHE on June 23, he said.

McCormack argued that allowing the school to start the semester on Sept. 6 could cause greater disruptions if the court decides not to issue an injunction, forcing BIC to shut down mid-term.

“The concern here is that if they open the doors, they get the federal money,” he said.

BIC’s attorneys repeatedly sought to assure Garbis the school would offer accreditation-worthy programs for its students this fall. They held up the school’s certification by the American Culinary Federation as proof.

Still, Garbis issued a stern warning to the educators.

“You don’t have a license to steal, you understand that,” he said.

“We’re not asking for one, your honor,” Prichard replied.

“You have to produce,” Garbis said. “If you get this, you can’t just coast until December.”