In letter to alumni, President Wilson announces layoffs to restore financial health

The Maroon Tiger recently obtained a letter from President Dr. John Wilson laying out a plan to restore the college’s financial health after months of low enrollment and a PLUS loan crisis that has driven enrollment down at HBCUs nationwide.

Read the full letter below:

I am writing because I want you to hear directly from me about an important, financially related issue at Morehouse.

Today, I announced to the campus community that Morehouse has eliminated or downgraded 75 administrative positions through a reduction-in-force. Forty-six people lost their jobs, and another 9 people had their jobs reclassified to a lower grade. Twenty positions that were vacant will not be refilled.

This is a difficult but necessary step we are taking – with the full support of the Board of Trustees – to ensure that Morehouse can operate within our financial means and continue to carry out our educational mission.

Like many colleges and universities, Morehouse has been negatively impacted by the downturn in the national economy. Over the past five years, our enrollment has declined steadily because the economy negatively affected many families’ ability to pay for college. By the 2012-13 academic year, there were 500 fewer students enrolled at Morehouse than there had been in the 2008-09 academic year. As enrollment declined, net tuition revenue also declined.

The Board of Trustees had been aware of this problem for some time. And when I came on board as president in January, I offered a clearer and more accurate definition of the College’s growing financial challenge. Then, within the first few months of my administration, my leadership team and I developed a plan to restore the College to financial health within three years. The Board, with a new executive leadership team in place, adopted the plan in July.

One of our biggest challenges was the need to align our expenses with our revenues. Although our revenues had declined significantly, our expenses had not. To correct this imbalance, we cut $2.5 million from our annual operating budget. We also restructured and right-sized the staff to meet our current enrollment estimates and needs for instruction and strategic priorities.

The cost savings from the RIF plus the other budget reductions will have an immediate positive impact on the bottom line. But there is only so much we can cut and still maintain a quality academic program.

That is why over the next five years, my primary focus will be on generating more revenues and efficiencies for the College. My administration will implement an aggressive enrollment management plan to attract more students who can afford to pay for a Morehouse education. And we will use our scholarships more strategically to ensure that we are focusing support on students who have the highest potential to benefit from being at Morehouse.

But, ultimately, Morehouse must be less dependent on tuition. So, while the administration is working to control costs and stabilize enrollment, the Board is taking the lead on fund raising to significantly grow our endowment and increase unrestricted gifts from donor-investors who support our mission as the premier institution of higher education for African American men.

As we approach the donor community, we know that one of the first questions they will ask is how those closest to the College – our alumni – are stepping up to the plate to support Morehouse. We are counting on all of you to have a good story to tell.

Many of you are already doing a great deal to support Morehouse. I know we can do more. For Dear Old Morehouse, we must do more. So let’s keep going, let’s keep pushing, let’s keep giving.

Forever Morehouse!