Southern Virginia College has found an influential ally in its accreditation struggle: Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee on higher education.

McKeon said he will ask the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to reconsider its recent decision denying accreditation to the college led by members of the LDS Church."The whole thing that bothers me is the lack of common sense," said McKeon, who is scheduled to meet with SACS officials Tuesday. "I'm using (the meeting) as kind of an experiment to see if we can do something without bringing more law to bear."

Without accreditation, Southern Virginia's students won't qualify for federal or state financial aid. That could make it harder for the school, which charges $15,000 a year for tuition and fees, to attract students.

SACS is private, but its role in financial aid gives Congress some oversight. If it doesn't cooperate, the group could face more regulation when Congress reworks the Higher Education Act next year, McKeon said. His committee would play a critical role.

"When people get a little heavy-handed with authority, then maybe you have to come back with heavy-handed authority," he said.

McKeon is a member of the LDS Church, was are all of the college's top administrators and all but three of its 22 trustees. He said he learned of that connection only after he became involved in the case.

Bennett J. Hudson, associate executive director of SACS' commission on colleges, said Southern Virginia has been treated in accordance with procedures.

The school, which for more than a century was known as Southern Seminary, is in a tender stage. SACS yanked its accreditation in December because of longtime financial troubles, and the college planned to close this spring.

It gained new life in April when several LDS business and education leaders announced they would assume control of the women's junior college and change it dramatically.

Their plans included making the college co-ed, doubling the enrollment to about 400, converting the school into a four-year liberal arts college and raising $50 million over five years.

They also appealed SACS' December accreditation ruling, but the appeal was denied last month.

U.S. Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., said SACS acted unreasonably.

"You're talking about a 130-year-old institution that . . . suddenly has this great turnaround," said Goodlatte, whose district includes Buena Vista, where the school is located.

"To say, `No, we're going to take away your accreditation' makes no sense. They shouldn't have to start from zero."

Regardless of what happens on the accreditation issue, the school plans to open in the fall. The school hopes to have about 200 students in its freshman class, said Roger Barrus, the college's new academic dean.

Although it is not church-supported, the college expects to draw from among the thousands of LDS Church members who each year are not accepted to the nation's three LDS Church-run colleges, Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, and BYU-Hawaii in Laie, Hawaii.