Finally, Some Good Financial News About Fisk

In addition to increased donations, President H. James Williams says enrollment is also on the rise. 645 students are enrolled at the historically black school, up from 533 in 2011. Image: Fisk University

In addition to increased donations, President H. James Williams says enrollment is also on the rise. 645 students are enrolled at the historically black school, up from 533 in 2011. Image: Fisk University

Fisk University now has a clean bill of financial health from its accreditation body. Tuesday, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools took the school off probation. SACS was concerned about the school’s financial situation. At one point, University officials had warned the school was within weeks of closing because it didn’t have enough money.

H. James Williams became president of Fisk in February. He says the linchpin to getting the university’s accounts back in in the positive was honesty about the dire the financial situation.

“And so the first thing we did was to sit down and share the unadulterated truth with the faculty and staff because I was going to have to ask them to take the supreme sacrifice: to take salary cuts.”

To cut expenses, the university offered buyouts and instituted mandatory furloughs. Williams says similar honesty with alumni was key to quickly raising $6.5 million.

Part of building donors’ trust was committing to not just shore up the school, but promising to lead it to a renaissance of sorts.

In addition to raising money from alumni, Fisk has also garnered $30 million by sharing part of its Stieglitz art collection with an Arkansas museum founded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton.

WPLN’s Nina Cardona contributed to this report.

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