Auditor: Cheyney University in Dire Financial Straits

An audit by Pennsylvania Auditor General finds the nation's oldest black college in deep trouble. Cheyney now plans to cut faculty and staff by 23 percent.

The nation’s oldest black college is on the verge of financial collapse.

Cheyney University, which straddles the border of Delaware and Chester counties, has run a deficit four out of the last five years and has a $12.3 million shortfall. Another $5.5 million shortfall is expected this year. Enrollment is declining. Revenue is down 12.2 percent since 2009, due to declining state funding for education. The university received $2.8 million more in funding from Pennsylvania in 2009 than it did last year.

All this comes form a dire report from Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DiPasquale, released yesterday.

“The situation at Cheyney University should be a warning to the systemic financial issues facing state universities. Our best and brightest state leaders and stakeholders must work together to develop a long-term plan to ensure the stability of these public universities to provide affordable college education for families across the state,” DePasquale said in a release. “The consequences of inaction are dire.”

Cheyney, founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, is one of Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities. It draws 80 percent of its students from Pennsylvania. This summer, Cheyney abruptly announced the retirement of its president, Michelle R. Howard-Vital.

DiPasquale’s audit also revealed Cheyney was not following the proper practice in conducting background checks on employees, volunteers, and contractors involved in youth athletic and academic camps at the university.

Cheyney has agreed to make several moves in order to put the university on a stronger financial footing. It will slash administrative and faculty staff 23 percent and require offices to reduce discretionary spending by 50 percent. The university plans to implement its new plan next month.

“We cannot sit idly by,” DePasquale said, “as this historic and prestigious university fights for survival.”

DePasquale’s audit report is below.

Cheyney University Audit