HBCU In Trouble: Oldest Black College On Verge Of Closing

December 22, 2014  |  

This is a shame. The nation’s oldest Black college, Cheyney University, is on the verge of a financial collapse that may cause it to shut its doors.

One of Pennsylvania’s 14 state-run universities, Cheyney has been on trouble for a while. Its student body has shrunk by two-thirds, to about 1,000, since its 1983 peak. And it now has just a nine percent of graduation after four years. “A quarter of students never receive a degree, and student loan defaults are high,” reports Reuters.

The university has been in the red for four of the last five years, with a $12.3 million shortfall as of June 30, 2013.

“Cheyney is in dire, dire, dire straits,” the state’s auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, said.

DePasquale wants the State System of Higher Education, which oversees state-owned universities, and the legislature to help Cheyney in getting out of “a vicious, destructive cycle” in which declining enrollment and state funding means less money for investments that could lure more students.

The HBCU was founded in 1837 after Quaker philanthropist Richard Humphreys left part of his estate to build a school to educate descendents of the African race.

Its alumni include journalist Ed Bradley, state and U.S. elected officials, several National Football League players, a U.S. ambassador to South Africa, and Robert Bogle, chief executive of The Philadelphia Tribune.

The university is trying to do what it can to turn things around. It has started to decrease its workforce by 23 percent and to cut offices’ discretionary spending in half. Cheyney is also planning more aggressive recruitment and will attempt to improve student retention and graduation rates. They aim to implement the new policy in January.

Many HBCUs have been experiencing financial problems over the last few years; Cheyney is the latest to take a turn for worse.

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