Fisk University Placed On Probation Again, But Administrators Say Budget Is Sound | Nashville Public Radio

Fisk University Placed On Probation Again, But Administrators Say Budget Is Sound

Jun 17, 2018

Nashville’s Fisk University has been put on probation by its accreditors, the school said Friday.

But officials defend the school's finances, saying the decision by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges was largely based on data from 2014-2015 and that Fisk's current budget is stronger.

"This is very unfortunate, but we're not going to allow this to derail us and the kind of progress that we've seen in the last three years," Jens Frederiksen, vice president of institutional advancement, said on Friday.

Frederiksen highlighted an increase in fundraising by 40 percent over the past three years and a reduction in the school's operating costs.

Part of that reduction came from layoffs: Fisk eliminated more than 25 positions this year, mostly from the administrative staff, he said.

"It's also just a very, very concerted effort to live within our means and understand that we don't have the luxury, until we have a much larger student body, of having a bloated staff," he said.

Growing the student body has been a challenge for Fisk. Last year, enrollment at the small, historically black university dropped to 705 students, down from 855 in 2015.

But the school is projecting higher enrollment for the fall, another factor that could increase revenue. It expects to gain at least 100 more freshmen compared to last year.

The probation also deals with financial controls surrounding federal financial aid, which Frederiksen says are being remedied.

This decision follows a long history of financial troubles at Fisk, including being placed probation in the mid-1980s and between 2011 and 2013, when it emerged with a financial plan that accreditors accepted.

The school will respond to the accrediting body next spring. In the meantime, the university will still be fully accredited and eligible for federal funding and student aid.