Cheyney University seeks new president in bid to survive

Cheyney University, which has struggled with finances and declining enrollment for years, is launching a search for a permanent president, the university said Thursday.  But first it must establish a presidential search committee.

“The search committee’s task will be vital to the future of Cheyney University — a university that will be very different from the one we have today,” Robert W. Bogle, chair of the Cheyney Council of Trustees, said.

“Changes are already underway to ensure that the Cheyney of tomorrow is both stable and dynamic, and we will find a long-term leader who has the strength and vision to guide us on this new path while respecting this university’s rich tradition.”

In the meantime, interim president Aaron A. Walton, appointed in late May, will continue to lead the university, one of 14 governed by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Walton, previously a longtime member of the State System board of governors, had also served as co-chair of a task force the system created in March, charged with developing a plan to plot a new path for Cheyney. The task force was one of the conditions for the system to approve an $8 million line of credit in February that would allow Cheyney to pay its bills until the end of June.

Thursday’s announcement came one month after the task force presented its report to the system’s board.

Among its recommendations was to reduce the number of majors offered  from 17 to 10 or 12,  and establish an institute that would study “issues focusing on race, ethnicity, and social justice.”

The university expects the search to take about six months after the committee is formed. The position will be advertised starting in August, the university said.

Founded in 1837, Cheyney is the nation’s oldest historically black university. It is situated on 275 acres of farmland in Delaware and Chester Counties. It enrolls 746 students, down from 1,600 in 2010.

Cheyney’s long history of financial trouble, declining enrollment, and uncertain stability has put its accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in jeopardy.