While the foundering economy has caused some historically black colleges and universities to make drastic cutbacks, Fort Valley State University is chugging forward.
Its aggressive capital improvement campaign is on track, and the university plans to open the recently completed $19.3 million phase of Wildcat Commons — its state-of-the-art, 370-bed dormitory — within the next month.
A new $16.8 million science academic building is expected to open as early as this fall, and the Board of Regents has approved several master’s degree programs in education and biotechnology.
Other historically black colleges and universities in the Georgia aren’t faring as well.
Clark Atlanta University laid off 100 employees due to declining enrollment. Morehouse College did not renew contracts for 25 adjunct professors. And Spelman College eliminated 35 positions and announced plans to phase out its college of education.
FVSU officials say the times are still challenging. This year, the university had to cut its budget by 10 percent, and the university’s endowment has dropped below $5 million.
“We are not immune to what is going on in the rest of the world economically,” said Melody Carter, vice president of external affairs.
Ft. Valley expects to enroll an additional 800 to 1,200 additional students in fall 2009. The more students we add, the beter off we'll be, said FVSU President Larry Rivers. The reason we've not had to lay anyone off is due to our growing enrollment, he said.
The university enrolled 3,106 students in fall 2008.
Adding students means increased revenue from tuition and fees that offset reductions in state funding.
Freshman Dominique Nichols had his eye on an Atlanta college. He wanted to attend Morehouse, but he changed his mind when FVSU offered him a full ride and he got a chance to take in the campus atmosphere as a potential student.
“Something seemed different that made me fall in love with the campus,” said Nichols, who had visited FVSU before during summer camps.
Rivers said he remains optimistic that support from the community, his colleagues, the local legislative delegation and the Board of Regents will keep FVSU moving in the right direction.
“I’m feeling really good about Fort Valley State University right now,” Rivers said.