Days ahead of a critical accreditation vote by officials at the Middle States Commission on Higher Education which could determine the survival of one of the nation’s oldest historically black colleges, Pennsylvania’s Board of Governors has moved to show stability in executive leadership by naming interim president Aaron Walton as permanent appointee.
The Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education voted to name Aaron A. Walton as the president of Cheyney University during a late meeting on Monday. Walton, who has been serving as interim president of the historically Black institution outside of Philadelphia since May, will serve as president through June 30, 2021.
The former Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board member and retired corporate executive was named interim in May, and has overseen dramatic fiscal changes at the embattled campus over the last six months. The school has fired or eliminated 17 positions from faculty and staff payroll, and is looking to shutter certain academic programs in order to demonstrate fiscal stability, and to receive forgiveness of a $30 million loan originated from PASSHE system schools.
Cheyney must cut an additional $7.5 million from its budget to qualify for an initial round of loan forgiveness, and must maintain a balanced budget for the next two years for the full $30 million to be removed from the books. The school plans to bolster enrollment and investment over the same period by establishing an honors college for high achieving students, cutting most of its athletic offerings, and leasing campus businesses for mixed use or private development.
Facing more than $30 million in debt, a lack of academic niches and a geography problem, Cheyney University is all but gone despite the honorable fight for its survival being waged by alumni and supporters.