Knoxville College was founded as a missionary effort of the United Presbyterian
Church of North America to promote religious, moral, and educational leadership
among freed men and women. In the 1870s, the church's Freedmen's Mission,
which had established mission schools for freed slaves across the South, decided
to refocus its efforts on building a larger, better-equipped school in Knoxville, in
part due to stiff competition from other denominations in Nashville. In 1875,
the church sold its East Knoxville property and purchased the site that would
become, and remain, the College’s home, establishing it as a "beacon on the hill."
The light began to flicker in the early 1970s amidst financial challenges and fiscal
management issues, contributing to a decline in its enrollment numbers. With little improvement in the College's
fiscal performance, in 1997, KC's accreditation was withdrawn by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). A determined KCNAA rallied to raise funds to support the beleaguered institution and a dwindled cadre of dedicated faculty who remained to conduct classes for the significantly reduced in number, but hopeful, students that remained.
For many years before its financial woes, KC was a regular presence in the HBCU ranks. It was the sole HBCU in eastern Tennessee and even during its era of decline, continued to work to serve the students who enrolled. A spate of leaders in both the College presidency and the Board of Trustees bought the College time. Although funds continued to be raised, limited long-term solutions, a challenging infrastructure of support, and threats to the school's physical structures proved to be overwhelming. In 2015, the Board voted to suspend operations and retool the College.
In 2018, following an extensive process of retooling by the Board of Trustees and interim College president,
Dr. Keith Lindsey, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) approved a proposed new format.
Our alumni, many with unwavering faith, have rallied to KC's side – upon hearing the news of its reorganization and retooling, we remain hopeful, as we rally "stronger together!"
Anyone can enroll an "A" or "B" student and take credit for his or her achievements. At Knoxville College, while we like the "A" and "B" students, we pride ourselves in taking a chance on the mid- or low-range students – the ones that can go either way – and guide them to a successful life. That's our specialty.