– The Board of Governors of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education today took additional actions designed to help Cheyney University secure continued accreditation. The Board approved a plan that would forgive more than $30 million in loans once Cheyney achieves certain operational benchmarks. The Board also approved limited policy exemptions that will help Cheyney balance its budget while ensuring students are able to earn their degrees even if certain programs are discontinued.
“Cheyney University cannot survive without accreditation, period. And today’s serious actions give Cheyney the path forward,” said Board Chair Cynthia D. Shapira. “This level of support from the Board and the system universities is unprecedented in the effort to help Cheyney survive and thrive so that it can serve students—currently and in the years to come. Now we ask the faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and other stakeholders to meet the challenge before all of us and do their part to ensure a bright future for these students and this important university.”
Cheyney must submit an operating plan to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education by September 1, demonstrating why its accreditation should be continued. The plan must include a balanced budget, which matches revenue with expenses.
In order to balance its budget, the university has already made two rounds of cuts in administration and staff, reorganized business and campus operations, and renegotiated contracts with vendors. The Board agreed that over the next four years it will waive repayment of more than $30 million in loans made to Cheyney from the 13 other universities and the Office of the Chancellor if the university demonstrates fiscal stability. One-third will be forgiven when Cheyney cuts $7.5 million in its current budget and maintains a balanced budget for 2018-19. The next two-thirds will be forgiven when Cheyney demonstrates a balanced budget in each of the following two fiscal years.
“By holding Cheyney accountable for achieving these goals, we are making an important shift toward rewarding good performance and away from enabling the kinds of decisions that have fostered Cheyney’s problems for decades,” said Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. “Cheyney University has an important role in our system, and this system has stepped up—in a big way—to prove that.”
“We are honored by the support we’ve received from our sister institutions in the State System over the years, and we want to prove that their investment in Cheyney is a smart one,” said Cheyney University Interim President Aaron Walton. “Each and every student who walks through our doors next week is a living testament to the potential of that investment, and I know those students won’t squander this opportunity.”
To help balance the budget and better align academic programs with the future of the university, Cheyney will consider placing some programs into moratorium—meaning they will not accept any new students into them. Under the current Board policy, students enrolled in a program that is placed into moratorium can continue in the program until they graduate, which means those courses must continue to be offered until every student has completed his or her undergraduate or graduate degree program. The university is unable to balance its budget under the existing policy guidelines.
“Our number one goal is to serve students, and we cannot do that if we lose accreditation. Without these limited policy exemptions, we would have to continue paying for programs that are no longer part of Cheyney’s future,” said Walton. “Now, we can focus our available resources on students in academic programs where there is the greatest demand and that meet Pennsylvania’s needs.”
To the extent possible, students near completion of their academic program will be able to finish their program at Cheyney. Others will be provided the opportunity to either complete another program at Cheyney or transfer to a similar program at any of the other 13 State System universities to complete their degree. The System also is in active discussions with Lincoln University for a similar arrangement.
“While it is too early to know which programs will ultimately be affected, we will remain student-focused every step of the way to ensure these students have a pathway to degree completion and successful careers,” said Walton. “Students will be advised every step of the way.
“The easy decisions were made years ago; all we have left are the tough choices. At the end of the day, we would rather see some programs be discontinued if it means preserving the university for generations to come.”
Faculty members affected if programs are placed into moratorium would be notified by October 30, but would continue to teach through the end of the spring 2018 semester. Those faculty would have preferential hiring rights to vacancies posted at Cheyney and the other 13 universities.
“Providing Cheyney these limited exemptions from the existing policy is absolutely necessary to ensure it can present a new operating plan to Middle States that includes a balanced budget,” said Shapira during the Board meeting. “If this will help Cheyney University position itself for the future, then why would anyone stand in the way of that?”
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, enrolling more than 100,000 degree-seeking students and thousands more in certificate and other career-development programs. Collectively, the 14 universities that comprise the State System offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas. Nearly 520,000 State System university alumni live in Pennsylvania.
The State System universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. The universities also operate branch campuses in Oil City (Clarion), Freeport and Punxsutawney (IUP), and Clearfield (Lock Haven), and offer classes and programs at several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and in Center City in Philadelphia.