Frank Lloyd Wright School calls for cash to save its accreditation

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A theater at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home-studio and retreat in Spring Green, Wisconsin. (Chris Bentley)

A theater at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home-studio and retreat in Spring Green, Wisconsin. (Chris Bentley)

In August, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture found its accreditation in jeopardy, following a rules change by their regional accrediting board, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Now the institution needs to raise $2 million before the end of 2015, or it will lose its standing once the new rules take effect in 2017.

The challenge lies in establishing the school as an entity fully independent of its parent company, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

HLC, apparently targeting for-profit universities, said it would no longer offer credit to schools that are part of institutions whose “missions extend beyond academics.” As part of a foundation that also advocates for preservation and engages in non-academic pursuits, the Frank Lloyd Wright school found itself in violation of these new rules. Now the plan is to spin off the school, which earned accreditation in 1992, into a financially independent entity.

To do that, the school’s administrators say they need to scrounge at least $1 million in cash and pledges by March 27, and then another $1 million by the end of 2015. If they meet that goal, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation has agreed to make a one-time gift of $7 million.

Aerial view of Taliesin, one of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture's campuses. (Courtesy Taliesin)

Aerial view of Taliesin, one of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture’s campuses. (Courtesy Taliesin)

“This campaign is the only opportunity to save the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture as we know it,” said Maura Grogan, chair of the school’s board of governors, in a press release.

If they don’t reach their fundraising goal, President Sean Malone told AN the school “would remain deeply dedicated to shaping architectural education,” but would lose its ability to offer accredited degrees after 2017. They could still team up with accredited institutions to offer such credentials, but their standalone certifications would carry considerably less weight in the professional world.

Malone said the rules change had the unintended effect of risking the school’s standing due to its unique status as a financially dependent subsidiary of a larger foundation.

“It was an imperfect storm,” Malone said. “Right now we’re very hopeful and focused on bringing in people who believe in this cause.”

The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture offers a professional M.Arch degree program with a focus on hands-on studio experience at its two campuses: Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

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