Shaw, St. Aug's confront financial challenges facing HBCUs
Posted February 24
Updated February 25
Raleigh, N.C. — Three historically black colleges across the U.S. have closed in recent years, and others are being squeezed by rising costs and declining enrollments.
Trustees at Saint Augustine's University in Raleigh were on a conference call Monday afternoon to discuss how to deal with the school's financial challenges.
Rodney Gaddy, chairman of Saint Augustine's Board of Trustees, said tuition revenue is down $3 million this year. The university also owes about $675,000 on its unfinished football stadium, and the contractor has sued to collect the debt.
"There’s a lot of financial issues at the school," senior Dwayne Hyman said. "There’s a lot of speculation and a lot of talk."
Saint Augustine's has eliminated more than a dozen positions and decided Monday to furlough faculty and staff March 9-17 – students are on spring break at that time – to save money, Gaddy said. School leaders also are re-examining everything from relationships with alumni to refinancing certain projects.
"The university is mindful of the domino effect that financial decisions can have on employees and their families and regret that these kinds of adjustments in operational cost are necessary, but like any other business, we continue to stay focused on our mission and vision," President Dianne Boardley Suber said in a statement.
Only last year, the school was considering taking over fellow HBCU Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va. The Board of Trustees scrapped the plan, and the Virginia school later closed.
At Shaw University in Raleigh, President Gaddis Faulcon said the school would use the business practice of process optimization to boost efficiency and cut costs.
“It is critical that Shaw University examines and addresses internal challenges and bottlenecks with the calculated next step being process improvement,” Faulcon said in a statement. “We will assess all of our operating procedures and evaluate our past performance to ultimately achieve and exceed improvement goals.”
Shaw also wants to reconnect with the Triangle community, engaging business leaders and building relationships with educational and civic groups to create new partnerships.
"I feel like we can’t lose any of our HBCUs. We need them all," Shaw senior William Askew said.
"We need to really value what we have," Askew said. "In a class, you can have from five to 20 (students). The numbers vary. Either way, you have a closer connection with your teachers."
Ten of the 11 HBCUs in the state saw enrollment drop this year, and budget cuts led Elizabeth City State University to reduce its number of degree programs.
HBCUs historically have smaller endowments and see fewer private donations when compared with other universities. Experts say fundraising will be key in keeping the schools afloat.