Thursday, December 08, 2016

Financial problems caused by enrollment decline shake Bennett College

Back in 2007, Bennett College was thriving. Its president was none other than the legendary Johnnetta Cole, whom had led it out from the enrollment-related financial problems that prompted the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to place the school on probation. 

Cole took Bennett from a $3.8M deficit, mainly caused by a 37 percent drop in enrollment over the four years before she arrived, to a $300,000 surplus by the end of her first fiscal year in 2003. By the time she retired in 2007, she had taken enrollment up to about 600.

Enrollment at Bennett later reached an all-time record of 780 in 2010 under President Julianne Malveaux.

But earlier this fall, Bennett President Rosalind Fuse-Hall resigned in the midst of severe budget cuts caused by a continuing decline in enrollment. She had been appointed to the presidency in 2013 after having served as FAMU’s chief of staff and executive director of Title III programs.

This week, Bennett announced that it is back on SACS probation due, in large part, to financial problems. According to the Greensboro News & Record:
…The financial struggles at Bennett, a private women’s college, have been closely linked with a decline in enrollment. Enrollment has fallen by nearly half since it peaked in 2010 at 780 students. This fall, enrollment stood at 403 students.

Like many small private colleges, Bennett depends largely on tuition revenues. The college’s enrollment declines have led to budget issues.

In the fiscal year that ended in June 2014, Bennett reported a budget deficit of nearly $2 million on revenues of nearly $18.8 million, according to its most recent federal tax filing. In the 2015 fiscal year, revenues dropped 1 percent but the deficit was smaller — about $1.25 million.

To reduce shortfalls, Bennett laid off employees in 2013 and 2015. Former President Rosalind Fuse-Hall resigned in August after three years at Bennett.

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