The president of Lincoln University, who was scheduled to retire June 30, said Thursday that he would continue in the post through the end of the year.

A search committee charged with finding a new head for the nation's oldest historically black college has not yet made a choice.

Ivory V. Nelson, 76, who has led Lincoln through a $325 million building expansion and a history-making decision to relinquish its control of the Barnes Foundation board of directors, will continue in his post through Dec. 31.

"This university is important to me and all of us," Nelson said. "My role is to make sure there is as smooth a transition and change as there can be."

The school announced several months ago that Nelson would retire this summer.

The search comes as Lincoln and the three other state-related universities face possible stiff cuts in state aid. The schools - which include Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh - each could lose more than 50 percent of its allocation.

State funding makes up 21 percent of Lincoln's current $65 million budget. In March, Nelson testified before a state Senate committee that Gov. Corbett's proposed cuts would force officials to consider salary freezes, consolidation of programs, and reduced services.

"In education right now, there are questions about accountability, retention, graduation rates, and costs," Nelson said. "When you reach a point when all of those create a perfect storm - which is where we are now - you begin to look at what you're doing, how you're doing it, and how to move forward."

The school is assessing its offerings in anticipation of possible program cuts, he said.

Nelson joined the school in 1999, during a time of turmoil. The school was in debt, the previous administration had been crippled by a financial scandal, and the campus was run-down.

Nelson spearheaded the effort to lobby for more state funding, and Lincoln officials eventually decided to relinquish control of the Barnes board. Millions in state funding was soon allotted to the university. Nelson and Gov. Ed Rendell insisted that there was no quid pro quo.

Since 2005, Lincoln has built a residence hall, cultural center, and science and technology center, and has renovated the student union and library. A wellness center and athletic complex are scheduled for completion in 2012.

Students including Courtney Tipper, a senior who is president of Lincoln's Student Government Association, have met with the search committee to offer their views on the selection of a new president. Students want someone who will fight for state funding in Harrisburg and oversee the campus expansion to its completion, Tipper said.

"We want the new president to have the vision of Lincoln that we already have - students graduating at the top of their class, who get into any medical school or law school," Tipper said, "students who can go anywhere in terms of their careers, and are Ivy League-ready."

Contact staff writer Kristin E. Holmes at 610-313-8211 or kholmes@phillynews.com.