Dr. David A. Thomas, the 12th President of Morehouse College.
Other Georgia schools are facing similar financial challenges.
The University System of Georgia, which receives a significant portion of its funding through state funds, must submit a budget cutting plan of as much as 14% to state officials by Wednesday. The 330,000-student system, which includes the state's largest public universities, has already announced it will not raise tuition this fall and anticipates losing $350 million through the summer. Emory University, the state's largest private institution, last month announced a hiring freeze and other cost-cutting measures.
Morehouse, though, was facing financial challenges before the pandemic. The college announced plans in September to furlough employees to fill a $5 million budget gap, but dropped the plan a month later, days before faculty planned a walkout.
The budget gap was created by unpaid tuition and fees from about 500 students, nearly one-quarter of its enrollment. Thomas said Monday he’s discussed the furlough plan with college trustees and talked about Morehouse’s financial challenges with faculty in recent town hall meetings.
> MORE: Q & A with Morehouse President David A. Thomas after a year on the job
Morehouse, the nation's only college dedicated exclusively to the education of African American men, has received some major donations, but many of those have gone to students and cannot be used for general operations and salaries. Last year, billionaire technology investor Robert F. Smith agreed to pay off the student debt for Morehouse's entire graduating class of 2019. Oprah Winfrey last year donated $13 million to a Morehouse scholarship program.
Thomas said Morehouse is exploring several revenue generating ideas, such as programs for adult learners who didn’t complete their college degrees, public-private partnerships to better utilize its properties and a coding bootcamp. Thomas said the college must look at this as an opportunity to develop long-term strategies to be financially strong.
“We really see this as a moment to enhance and innovate on the Morehouse legacy,” Thomas told the AJC. “Whenever you announce cuts there’s always a depressive quality to it, but I would dare say that we’re quite optimistic about the future here at Morehouse.”
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