Audit: Finances Put Cheyney University’s Future in Doubt

HARRISBURG, Pa. ― Pennsylvania’s auditor general says the future of the nation’s first historically Black university is in doubt amid rising debt and falling revenue and enrollment.

The audit released Wednesday finds Cheyney University’s expenses exceeded revenue in four of the last five years and budget deficits were projected to grow by $5.5 million.

Enrollment at the suburban Philadelphia institution has dropped by more than 400 students to 1,053 since 2008-2009. It is the smallest of the 14 universities in the State System of Higher Education.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Cheyney is among several state schools strapped by dwindling government funding. However, he did cite one issue in particular that Cheyney faces.

“Cheyney has a specific exacerbated problem of not getting people to pay back their loans,” DePasquale said Wednesday. “We have not seen that issue on the other campuses nearly to the degree we see that at Cheyney.”

Supporters of Cheyney, founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, announced in October that they are continuing to pursue a civil rights lawsuit based on the premise that the university does not receive equitable resources. In the meantime, the university is implementing recommendations on staffing and expenses.

They include reducing the administrative and facility workforce by 23 percent and decreasing non-personnel expenses by 22 percent. That will mean a 50 percent cut in discretionary spending.