It is a fact that the majority of HBCUs in the United States do not receive anywhere near the level of funding that white institutions receive. However, despite this significant obstacle, HBCUs continue to operate. Now word comes that the oldest HBCU in the country is in danger of closing its doors.
Cheyney University, founded in 1837, is in a financial free fall with a $12.3 million budget shortfall. Declining enrollment at Cheyney is a primary cause. The school’s student body has shrunk two-thirds, to a current enrollment of about 1,000 students. In addition, its graduation rate is a scandalous 9 percent. To try to stem the loss of money due to student debt and pension responsibilities, the school has cut its workforce by 23 percent. According to Pennsylvania State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, “Cheyney is in dire, dire, dire straits.”
Currently, the only hope for the university is to appeal to the State System of Higher Education — the governing body for the state-owned universities — and the legislature to help their situation.
The school plans to institute new initiatives in 2015 that will hopefully increase student enrollment, retention and graduation rates.