Cheyney University came out of the weekend with a pair of victories, reporting the likelihood both of a balanced budget and announcing that the newly signed state budget includes almost $4 million in scholarships for Cheyney students. Cheyney’s deadline for showing a balanced budget passed this Sunday. Failure to do so would have cost the university its accreditation.
Cheyney President Aaron Walton was cautiously optimistic that Cheyney had balanced its budget for what he said would “be the first time in almost a decade.” However, Walton added that he “wants to wait for about a month” after the books are closed before “I let out a complete sigh of relief.”
“There is no question about it; balancing the budget is the first step,” Walton said. “We have done that. But you want to wait for at least a month after you’ve closed the books before you celebrate. But the budget has to be balanced. That is the basis of the forgiveness plan”
If Cheyney can balance its budget for the next three years, the state will forgive $30 million of the $43 million the university owes to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
Meanwhile, multiple others associated with Cheyney, the nation’s oldest historically Black college, confirmed Monday that the June 30 deadline for reporting a balanced budget had been met, clearing the first in a number of benchmarks Cheyney must meet to keep its accreditation.
“The budget is balanced, I can confirm that,” said Cynthia Moultrie, Cheyney’s executive director of finance and administration. “Without getting into the accounting of it, we have satisfied everything associated with revenues and expenses.” State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.), a member of the Cheyney Council of Trustees, said he is “confident that Cheyney will successfully meet all of its next steps.”
Next, Cheyney must submit a report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the regional accrediting body, detailing theschool’s progresss; the report is due by mid-August. Then, in November, the commission on will again evaluate Cheyney’s accreditation.
Cheyney administrators saw another bright light ahead when the governor approved a budget that includes $3.98 million for the Keystone Honors Academy, a program that provides full scholarships to eligible Cheyney Students. The Keystone Honors Academy is the only full scholarship program that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education provides. The amount, which also includes funds from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, marks a significant increase over last year’s $2.3 million allocation. “This very generous allocation will enhance our ability to continue to attract high-performing students,” Walton said. “The scholarship funding comes at a great time with the university enjoying a resurgence in academics, culture and support.”
Cheyney has students who qualified for the program but were not awarded the scholarship for the upcoming fall semester because the previously available funds had already been awarded. “Now we’ll be able to work through the waiting list of students who committed to Cheyney and who will benefit from the full scholarship,” Walton said.
The university in Delaware County has been struggling financially for years, and its struggles have been reflected in declining enrollment. About a decade ago, the school had more than 1,400 students. This past year, school enrollment fell 38%, plummeting from 744 students to 469, representing the biggest decline by any of the 14 state-run colleges. In May, just 168 students received diplomas.
The reduced enrollment has led the university to cut majors (from 19 to 15) and its football program. Last July, accompanied with much fanfare, Cheyney announced the formation of the Institute for the Contemporary African American Experience, a partnership between the school, Thomas Jefferson University, research and development firm Epcot Crenshaw, and Starbucks.
Correction This article was edited on July 2 to correct state Sen. Vincent Hughes’ affiliation with the university.
John N. Mitchell Tribune Staff Writer
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