Wilberforce University has implemented layoffs, furloughs and at least a 20 percent pay cut for employees, the school’s president told a group of alumni in Atlanta, Georgia on May 17.
“These things are necessary,” president Herman Felton told alumni. “They’re unpopular but they are in the best interest of the institution.
Felton also said that the university cut $750,000 from its payroll budget in November. Layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts were implemented this month despite the November cuts because “we still were not right-sized,” Felton said.
The Dayton Daily News has reached out to Felton for comment on the news.
Wilberforce University, the oldest historically black private university in the country, was at risk of losing its accreditation from mid-2014 through most of 2015, due to declining enrollment.
The school was issued a “show cause” order from the Higher Learning Commission that was later lifted in November 2015 after enrollment increased by more than 85 percent to around 650 students. If the college had lost its accreditation, its students would not be eligible for federal financial aid.
Wilberforce has since been able to “satisfy standards needed to remove the show cause,” Felton said.
Felton told alumni last week that Wilberforce officials were preparing for a follow up visit from the Higher Learning Commission. On that visit, HLC officials are expected to take a close look at the university’s debt management, fiscal responsibility and fundrasing capabilities, Felton said.
Wilberforce was also seeking to sell a portion of campus to eliminate some of the school’s debt, William Woodson, senior vice president for finance and administration told the Dayton Daily News in January. Wilberforce University was looking to sell about 10 acres of campus, including two buildings, for $7 million.
Felton told alumni that a “Wilberforce renaissance” is real and under no circumstances “will we entertain the notion of a merger with another institution.” Felton also warned alumni that the college community needed to make sure Wilberforce does not succumb to the same fate as other colleges that have closed or struggled to survive.
“We must be vigilant in assuring that we do everything in our powers to ensure we never meet the fate of a St. Paul’s College, a Barba-Scotia or a Morris Brown,” Felton said. “The choice is simply ours.”
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