State Audit Paints a Bleak Future for Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Cheyney University of PennsylvaniaEugene A. DePasquale, auditor general for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has released a 54-page audit of the operations of Cheyney University. A historically Black educational institution located west of Philadelphia, Cheyney is a member of the 14-campus Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The latest U.S. Department of Education data shows that Cheyney has enrollments of about 1,200 students.

The auditor general stated that the future of historic Cheyney University is bleak and projected to worsen, unless drastic action is taken at the state level to address escalating debt, falling revenues, and declining enrollments. “We cannot sit idly by as this historic and prestigious university fights for survival,” DePasquale said.

According to the audit:

• Expenses exceeded revenue in four of the past five years.

• Cheyney’s deficit increased by $4.5 million in 2013 to a cumulative deficit of $12.3 million. Cheyney officials project another $5.5 million shortfall in 2014-15.

• Enrollments are down 28 percent from the 2008-09 academic year.

• Cheyney’s allotment from the State System dropped from $15.6 million in 2009 to $12.8 million in 2013.

“It is a losing proposition. When you have fewer state dollars and fewer students, then you have less money to invest into the university to attract more students. It is a vicious and destructive cycle that must be stopped,” DePasquale said.

In response, Cheyney University has implemented cost-cutting measures and new policies in an effort to increase enrollments and to improve retention rates.

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  1. The challenges at Cheyney are not that much different than those of other HBCUs that are struggling to keep afloat despite shrinking state funding and declining enrollment. Support from external organizations could help in the short term, but the most important long term components include an external audit of all aspects of the institution to understand where improvements are necessary in order to become a more viable and effective institution. This ‘audit’ is not just about needing more money, it is about what kinds of programs and services are needed to make the institution more impactful to serving its students. I believe that if this is done, student success (i.e. retention and graduation rates) will be improved. When this happens, student enrollment will increase because invariably marketing of the institution will be enhanced because of its success.

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