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Johnson C. Smith University Lays Off Staff In $3 Million Of Budget Cuts

Duncan McFadyen

Johnson C. Smith University trimmed its budget by $3 million this week. The Charlotte school announced Thursday it had laid off 21 employees and had eliminated or frozen 30 other positions.

JCSU president Ron Carter blames a drop in enrollment at the historically-black school. He says last fall, there were a record number of students on campus, close to 1,800. The problem is that 300 of them came up short when it was time to pay their tuition. Carter says he noticed a large number of them couldn’t get a certain kind of federal student loan.

“This was strange, in terms of the numbers of students not qualifying,” he says. “And as I spoke to my colleagues at other HBCUs, they noticed the same thing as well.”

The students and their families weren’t qualifying because of tighter standards implemented last year by the federal education department. Carter says African-American families were hit particularly hard by the change. JCSU lowered tuition for 180 of the students who came up short; the other 120 ended up dropping out.

Then this year, less than 1,400 students enrolled.

On Monday, the school announced a $2.5 million grant from the Duke Endowment to help students pay the difference between their financial aid and the $18,000-a-year tuition. But, Carter says that money doesn’t completely solve the problem.

“We must continue to find endowed scholarships to help needy students realize their educational dream,” he says.

Credit Duncan McFadyen / WFAE
JCSU campus off Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte

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WFAE's Duncan McFadyen discusses JCSU's financial problems.
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Carter says JCSU is also looking at outsourcing some of the school’s support programs, like student health.

“We are leaving no stone unturned as we look at how we can continue strengthening our financial platform,” he says.

According to a press release, close to 85 percent of Johnson C. Smith students rely on federal assistance for at least some of their education expenses.