Ohio's two historically black colleges are neighbors, both about an hour southwest of Columbus. But they are considering getting even closer by merging some operations.
Wilberforce University President Elfred Anthony Pinkard is calling this a "Collaborative Learning Arrangement" and "shared services relationship" with Central State University.
The two universities will merge information technology, library, housing and food services, Pinkard writes in a joint statement released by the schools this week. Some academic sharing is also possible, while students remain at their respective campuses, located across the street from each other.
The two schools actually started off as one and the same. In 1887 the State of Ohio began to fund Wilberforce University, ending its private school status and establishing a combined teachers' program and industrial department. By 1941 the program was expanded from two to four years and in 1947, legally split from Wilberforce University renamed as the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce, Ohio. In 1951, it was renamed Central State College and eventually gained university status.
Located in Wilberforce, Ohio, Wilberforce University was founded in 1856 as a collaboration between the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and was the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans. Forced to close during the Civil War due to declining enrollment and lack of funds, it was purchased and reopened by the AME Church 1863.
In recent years, however, both schools have struggled with financial problems and accrediation issues. In 2017, the state removed Central State from state fiscal watch, though Wilberforce is currently on probation by the Higher Learning Commission and needs to raise $2 million by June 30.
Pinkard says more details about the shared resources agreement will be announced at a later time.