TSU Plans Layoffs to Offset Possible $6M Deficit

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

Tennessee State University officials say they may have to lay off employees, combine classes and drop students from school rolls, largely because of a weak economy and fewer out-of-state students.

TSU President Melvin N. Johnson said Thursday he did not know yet how many employees could be laid off.

In addition, 1,300 students may be dropped because they can’t pay tuition, prompting the school to plead for money from donors.

School officials blame the cuts, which are needed to meet a budget shortfall as high as $6 million,  on a languishing economy, restricted student loans and rising tuition.

Last year, TSU enrolled more than 2,000 out-of-state students; that number is down to 1,600 this year. Total enrollment at the school, where the majority of students are Black, as of Thursday was 8,659.

The cuts could potentially drop enrollment to a 20-year low, less than a month after the school announced a plan to add 3,000 students by 2015.

“This is a disappointment,” Johnson said. “It really limits my capability to reach as deep as I wanted to with those objectives.”

TSU isn’t the only higher education institution in the state facing downsizing. In July, Southwest Tennessee Community College announced it would lay off 142 part-time workers because of state funding cuts. The state cut $56 million in higher education funding, despite tuition increases of 6 percent at Southwest. The college has eight sites in the Memphis area and employs about 1,500 people.

At TSU, Johnson attributed the drop in out-of-state students to a 6 percent tuition increase combined with a tightening student loan market. Out-of-state tuition and fees are about $16,000 at TSU while in-state tuition and fees are about $5,100.

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