The university must take quick and drastic actions to deal with the shortfall and get the school back on a positive path, Washington said.
South Carolina State University board members were stunned to learn about a projected $4 million budget shortfall, a deficit so severe that one trustee said the school was on life support.
Joe Pearman, interim vice president for finance and facilities, told the Board of Trustees' Finance Committee about the projected shortfall.
University leaders had hoped to have a $2.5 million surplus by June 30, the end of the school's fiscal year. Instead it will fall short about $4 million of breaking even.
Pearman told committee members that he expected a shortfall of about $3 million, which he attributed largely to the school's drop in tuition revenue from declining student enrollment. The University would also have to cover a $750,000 shortfall from the school's dining hall.
The Finance Committee and university President George Cooper will meet again to continue developing plans to deal with the shortfall.
The full board will meet Feb. 16. In a presentation to the committee, board member Maurice Washington said enrollment dropped from 4,933 students in June 2008 to 4,362 students in June 2011.
The school isn't bankrupt, he said, "but it's on life support."
One action he suggested was opting out of the costly Division I athletic program.
Cooper said he has a plan to deal with the problem. It involves eliminating vacant positions, laying off some employees and cutting some salaries.