This past fall the Middle States Commission on Higher Education extended the probation of historically Black Cheyney University of Pennsylvania for another year. Under commission rules, this is the last extension that Cheyney will obtain. It must submit a report to the commission by August showing that it has addressed the commission’s concerns. A final decision on the university’s accreditation status will be made in November 2019.
Cheyney’s financial problems stem in part to a sharp drop in enrollments. In 2010, there were nearly 1,600 students enrolled at Cheyney University. By 2014, the number of students enrolled had dropped to just over 1,000. This semester, there are 415 students on campus.
Daniel Greenstein, the chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, stated recently in a legislative meeting in Harrisburg that it was his belief that it was “highly likely” Cheyney would lose its accreditation later this year. He advised Cheyney to prepare for that to happen and questioned whether it was wise to enroll new students next fall.
The university has stated that it needs an additional $10 million from the state to shore up its finances. But a 2017 agreement, forgave $30 million in prior debt if the university was able to operate on a balanced budget for four years. A new $10 million infusion in state funds would show that the university had not shorn its operating budget shortfall.
Aaron Walton, president of Cheyney University, remains optimistic. He stated “we have until June 30 to balance the budget. That’s what we have to do, and we’re going to do it.” He noted that the university has seen a 33 percent increase in applications for the 2019 entering class.
After a recent meeting between Governor Tom Wolf, President Walton, Chancellor Greenstein and other leaders, a decision on whether to grant a new $10 million loan was put off until later this year. But all participants agreed to continue to work to secure the long-term future of the university.