Virginia's Stratford University has received preliminary approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission to take over operations of embattled Baltimore International College on Jan. 1. The approval from MHEC was one condition of a legal settlement reached in September that forestalled the culinary college's loss of accreditation. Now, the takeover must be approved by the agency that accredits Stratford and by the banks that hold bonds backing Baltimore International's operations. Charles Nabit, chairman of Baltimore International's board, said both of those processes are on track. "Everything is looking good for Stratford to begin operating here on January 1," Nabit said. Baltimore International was in danger of losing its accreditation, and the vital federal loan money that goes with it, this summer. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education said the college had failed to meet standards for planning curriculum, measuring student performance and other areas of operation.