Georgia HBCU Albany State University (ASU) recently announced a significant reduction in staff due to failing finances.

Albany State University GA sign

Georgia’s Albany State University

In a Aug. 17 letter to the campus community University President Art Dunning said that 80 staff positions—48 of which are currently filled—would be eliminated, effective Sept. 30. Such “right-sizing” is tough but necessary, he added.

“With at least five years of declining enrollment and a loss of millions of dollars in revenue due to that enrollment decline, we have determined that we must make changes, immediately,” Dunning wrote. “Since the largest portion of our budget, nearly 90 percent, supports salaries, we must reduce that expense to balance the budget and operate more efficiently….Yet, I deeply regret that difficult decisions had to be made that resulted in job losses for our employees.”

In early August, Dunning announced that significant budget cuts would have to be made because of declining enrollment. From 2011 to 2015, ASU had experienced a 25 percent decline in enrollment, which translated into a $980,202 cut in state funds and a further $1.5 million loss in tuition income for fiscal year 2017.

Administrators determined that cost-saving measures had to include the restructuring of departments, elimination of low-producing academic programs but also the reduction of faculty and staff positions.

“ASU has one of the lowest student-staff ratios within the University System of Georgia of 8 to 1, while the average ratio in the University System of Georgia is 15 students to 1 staff,” Dunning said. “A reduction in staffing is necessary in order to bring us closer to the appropriate staffing levels.”

The president said the school would assist the affected staff with transition support such as, a COBRA update regarding insurance and a resume writing workshop. The school would additionally work with the local Department of Labor to provide them with other resources.

Dunning said the university would also give priority consideration to the impacted staff when employment opportunities opened up in the future.

Albany State’s woes reflect those of other HBCUs across the country who have cited falling enrollment due to changes in the federal Pell Grant and other financial aid programs as well as contracting state funding. In June, for example, an accrediting agency voted to revoke the accreditation of Paine College, an HBCU in Augusta, Ga., due to the school’s inability to demonstrate financial stability.

 

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO