Saint Augustine's University facing financial hurdles

It has a long storied past, but it is the future of St. Augustine's University that has people concerned.
February 25, 2014 3:33:42 AM PST
It has a long storied past, but it is the future of St. Augustine's University that has people concerned.

The historic university is facing tough financial hurdles. So much so, furloughs are being implemented next month.

The news has shaken alumni, not to mention the students currently enrolled at St. Augustine's. The future of the 147-year-old Raleigh institution is very much a question mark.

Students told ABC11 they are "paying more for less" and "a lot of teachers are getting laid off." It is the talk around campus at St. Augustine's, and many students are considering jumping ship.

"I'm concerned to the point, I'm about to transfer, I'm about to get out of here and go to another school," said sophomore Thomas Moyer.

Founded in 1867, ABC11 has learned the board of trustees is considering major changes aimed at keeping the historically black university afloat. A senior faculty source says proposals include cutting several departments and consolidating others.

Faculty layoffs are on the table, and St. Augustine's staffers received their first furlough notice Monday. From March 8 through March 16, staffers will have no work and no pay. It is sending shockwaves through campus.

"I heard they've been cutting back on certain classes, things like that, it's scary!" said sophomore Tameer Jackson.

Historically black universities across the country have seen a drop in enrollment in recent years, and it is hitting hard.

The News & Observer uncovered a recent audit showing St. Augustine's tuition revenue is down $3 million; add to that disorganized accounting, and a lawsuit from a contractor- who says St. Augustine's owes nearly $675,000 for the construction of its new football stadium.

It has added to the sense of instability on campus, students unsure of what is coming next, and many have seen enough.

"The students that came in- half of them are gone, they transferred, or they just stopped coming-- it's basically money issues," Jackson said.

ABC11 spoke to several proud St. Augustine's alumni Monday, who are concerned but hopeful for a turnaround. They did not want to speak on camera, for fear of undermining the university.

Late Monday night St. Augustine's President Dianne Boardley Suber released a statement addressing the concerns.

    Higher education institutions in general and HBCU's, in particular, all over the country are facing financial challenges as federal and state cuts have had a direct impact on our students being able to afford to attend college. As a private, tuition-driven institution, St. Aug is definitely feeling the impact.

    We know that in times of economic challenges, the solutions are often difficult to implement. 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.

    This administration, with the support of the Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students, are doing what is necessary to sustain the financial health of the institution in these difficult economic times. Our immediate goals are to support our continuing students, meet our recruitment goals for the 2014 freshman class, and effectively and efficiently manage and maximize, our financial resources.

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