JULIANNE MALVEAUX

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—Will another HBCU “bite the dust?” Truly, it depends on us.  Pennsylvania’s Cheyney University, the oldest HBCU in the nation (founded in 1837) has been on probation since November 2015.  If the Middle States Commission on Higher Education does not accept a sustainability report that is due on Sept. 1, the school may lose its accreditation. Without accreditation, Cheyney students cannot receive federal financial aid like Pell grants and federal loans.  Many would be forced to leave school because they can’t afford to attend school without assistance.

Cheyney is part of the Stop the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, an organization that took nearly 20 years to settle a lawsuit with the college because (PASSHE) funded predominately white institutions (PWIs) in Pennsylvania more favorably than Cheyney. While PASSHE provided Cheyney with some money to address the issues of inequality, most say the amount they provided was just a fraction of that due.  At the same time, Cheyney has borrowed millions of dollars from PASSHE. Because of the borrowing, PASSHE has assembled a task force that would sell Cheyney’s land, slash its academic programs, reduce enrollment (which is already extremely low), eliminate NCAA sports and also cut staff.  In other words they would kill the college. Can we afford to lose another HBCU?

Cheyney’s detractors say that the college is not necessary, and that PASSHE should merge it with another nearby college, either sister HBCU Lincoln University, or another PASSHE school, West Chester University.  Some say it isn’t race, but mismanagement, that has plagued Cheyney.  But too many HBCU leaders have been accused of mismanagement, when the real issue, especially for state-supported institutions, is a lack of resources and a history of underfunding Black colleges.  And most face the challenge of underfunding with some innovation.  For example, Cheyney has developed a new business model that includes creating an Institute for the Contemporary African American Experience.  They envision this institute as a potential magnet for student enrollment, which will bring more revenue to the college.  But with a September 1 deadline nipping at their heels, the survival of Cheyney is in the hands of the accrediting organization.

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