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Judge grants Baltimore International College 2 weeks’ grace

Baltimore International College will hold on to its accreditation long enough to start the fall semester next week after a U.S. District Court judge threw the school a lifeline.

The culinary and hospitality school’s accreditation was due to expire midnight Wednesday. But Judge Marvin J. Garbis issued a temporary restraining order with just hours to go that blocks the Middle States Commission on Higher Education from revoking BIC’s certification for two weeks.

The order, Garbis wrote, allows the school in the short term “to avoid the disruption of the education of the 130 students currently enrolled at the college and to protect the jobs of the employees.”

BIC argued it would be forced to close immediately without MSCHE accreditation because its students would lose their eligibility for the federal financial aid that makes 70 percent of its tuition revenue.

The college and MSCHE likely will be back in court before the restraining order expires Sept. 12 to argue whether the loss of accreditation should be pushed back again. At that time, BIC’s academic programs and the shortcomings that led MSCHE to decide to revoke its accreditation could be called into question once more.

Garbis repeatedly warned the college Wednesday that its programs would have to be up to snuff in order to be granted an injunction to further delay loss of accreditation.

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

In granting the restraining order, Garbis wrote “the court emphasizes the word ‘temporary.’”

The college filed for the order Tuesday after receiving notice the day before from MSCHE that the school would not be allowed to appeal its loss of accreditation.

Garbis wrote the commission’s position was “inconsistent with the most reasonable interpretation” of its policies.

BIC wants the loss of accreditation moved back to Dec. 31. That would give the school time to finish the fall semester and 95 of its students time to graduate. It would also provide a bridge to the Jan. 1 takeover of BIC by Stratford University, a for-profit university based in Virginia.

The college argued loss of accreditation would cause lenders to foreclose on its properties in the city and the deal with Stratford to fall through.

BIC President Edgar B. Schick and Stratford administrators did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

BIC opens for fall classes on Tuesday.

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

The commission’s attorney, Timothy F. McCormack of Ballard Spahr LLP, declined to comment Thursday.

MSCHE decided to revoke the school’s accreditation in June, but BIC’s troubles date back to 2007. Then, Middle States said BIC was in compliance with only six of its 14 standards for accreditation.

BIC’s extensive Baltimore real estate holdings are worth about $20 million. They include two main facilities — the Commerce Exchange building about two blocks from the Inner Harbor and the Culinary Arts Center in Little Italy.