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Financial Woes for Benedict College

July 25, 2006

Faculty and staff members will probably have their next paychecks delayed because of steep funding shortfalls at Benedict College, a historically black institution in South Carolina. The college informed employees last week that paychecks for July 31 might not be distributed on time, leading to campuswide concern.

Federal audits of the college highlight more than $100 million in debt and other liabilities, as well as operating losses for three of the past four years for which audits are available. In 2005, officials at the institution had been up to three months late in making payments to pension plans, according to the audits.

Local news reports indicate that the college has spent large amounts of money on a new 10,000-seat football stadium, which is scheduled to open in August. Some alumni have complained in local news outlets about the institution taking on such a project, perhaps at the cost of paying employees. 

Calls to President David Swinton and public affairs officials at the college were not returned.

Marjorie Hammock, an assistant professor in the college’s social work department, told The State newspaper that a delay in pay would be devastating for some faculty members.

“I’m very upset," Hammock told the paper. “I’m going to manage on the 31st, whether I get paid or not. I have other resources. But I know how devastating this is to many people who are managing wisely but need their money on a regular basis.”

Benedict College trustees say they plan to soon investigate the hows and whys behind the debt.

Rufus Pettis, a member of the board, said Thursday that trustees want to know more about the college’s overall financial situation. He believes that the board has not received enough relevant information to date.

"It's disappointing," Pettis said. "But we'll get to the bottom of it."

According to officials with the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, an organization that represents historically black colleges and universities, the $100 million debt merits attention. It is unusual for an institution to be faced with such a large shortfall, they said.

 

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