Beset with financial troubles before the nation’s economy began a free fall last year, Fisk University is signaling tougher times ahead.
In a “Family Letter,” dated Feb. 20, Fisk President Hazel O’Leary told the Fisk community the school has lost 11 percent of its enrollment since last August, and that annual donations are down by more than 40 percent for the year. “
To “bring our expenses in line with our reduced revenues,” O’Leary said the school’s board of trustees had approved a 15 percent cut in the school’s budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year ending June 30.
“Our mission to cultivate bright young people of high intellect and character cannot be underestimated in an adverse economic climate,” O’Leary said. Echoing an argument made this time a year ago, O’Leary said ending the fiscal year without a deficit was crucial to maintaining the school’s accreditation.
Estimates, based on published data, put the student revenue loss in excess of $150,000 and donor revenue off by several million dollars. While O’Leary’s statement made no reference to the school’s endowment, which was estimated between $6 million and $8 million at various times during 2008, most endowments are down in value by 20 percent to 40 percent because of the stock market crash. Fisk long ago mortgaged nearly all of its real estate assets to stay in business.
O’Leary said “all areas” of the university have taken steps to cut expenditures, including a freeze in hiring and entering new service and professional contracts, except essential ones, a freeze on nonessential travel, elimination of reassignment of adjunct faculty to merge class sections, cuts in purchases for supplies and operations and cost sharing for critical services.