Clarion University withdrew a letter of retrenchment Sept. 22, eliminating the possibility of faculty cuts at the end of the academic school year and leaving Cheyney University letter as the last remaining after five letters were submitted during the spring of 2017.
Last spring, five letters of intent to retrench were issued throughout the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASS- HE). All of these letters have been withdrawn except for Cheyney’s, leaving an air of uncertainty over the university’s future.
“Although we believe there should never have been a letter on the table, we are glad the Clarion University administration took this step,” said Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) in an APSCUF press release. “We now turn our full attention to Cheyney University.”
Ray Feroz, president of the Clarion chapter of APSCUF, said the university is prepared to devote itself to producing a higher quality of education for its students.
“I am absolutely convinced that collaboration and cooperation is the way to make Clarion University a great place for students to learn and faculty to work,” Feroz said.
Since the letters were issued, APSCUF held numerous meet-and-discuss sessions at the state and local level that voiced concerns about the possibility of faculty layoffs, according to the press release. During these sessions, APSCUF representatives worked with administrators to determine the solutions that would be most beneficial for PASSHE students.
In August, the Board of Governors approved a plan that forgave more than $30 million in loans that Cheyney University had accrued, depending on the university’s ability to meet several benchmark requirements.
“By holding Cheyney accountable for achieving these goals, we are making an important shift toward awarding good performance and away from enabling the kinds of decisions that have fostered Cheyney’s problems for decades,” said former PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan.
According to a PASSHE enrollment chart published last year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, enrollment rates at PASSHE’s 14 universities dropped in every university except for Slippery Rock, West Chester and Cheyney, which saw increases in enrollment during the
2015–16 academic school year. During the same year, East Stroudsburg remained consistent in its enrollment rate.
Despite an increase in enrollment two years ago, Cheyney has not escaped a myriad of financial issues. Since 2010, Cheyney has seen its enrollment rate drop by more than half, according to another Post-Gazette article.
In response, the university cut $7.5 million from its $35 million budget, and eliminated about two dozen staff and administrative positions in recent weeks. On Sept. 1, Cheyney submitted an orga- nization plan in an effort to maintain its accreditation and prevent the university’s closure.
“Our No. 1 goal is to serve students, and we cannot do that if we lose accreditation,” Cheyney Interim President Aaron Walton said in a PASSHE press release. “Now, we can focus our available resources on students in academic programs where there is the greatest demand and that meet Pennsylvania’s needs.”