Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Alabama A&M's Fiscal Health Improving

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Alabama A&M's Fiscal Health Improving

Article excerpt

When Dr. Andrew Hugine left his as president of South Carolina State University to become president of Alabama A&M University in 2009, both institutions were prototypes of historically Black universities in crisis.

But in August 2012, nearly a year before his contract was scheduled to expire, Hugine received a hearty nod of approval from AAMU's trustees when they voted to extend his contract to 2017, maintaining his $230,000 salary but adding performance incentives.

So Diverse examined how this turnaround occurred amid the toughest times in recent history for HBCUs, particularly, the latest national setback from the federal government's tougher standards for Parent Plus Loans, which resulted in declining enrollment and a $150 million loss to HBCUs overall.

"When I arrived in 2009, the university was on probation with SACS [Southern Association of Colleges and Schools] ... and that probation had to do with the financial health and management of the university," Hugine says, listing a few of the main issues he confronted: a $10 million loss in state funding, five different presidents--either permanent or interim over a six year period--$100 million of deferred maintenance and overstaffing.

Hugine assessed this environment and immediately tapped into the city's resources --and needs. Alabama A&M is located in the high-tech city of Huntsville, Ala., home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

He learned that the high schools needed a new stadium. After negotiations with city and school district officials, a partnership resulted in A&M's stadium being upgraded for use by the high schools and the university's football team.

By making comparisons to other similar land-grant institutions, Hugine's administration concluded that A&M was overstaffed by about 200 employees. In addition to furloughs and layoffs, they offered early retirement packages to employees to reduce staff, outsourced facilities management and introduced a program that allows students who take more than the minimum required credit hours to forgo paying additional tuition for the additional courses. The administration also merged five schools into four colleges and added new academic programs. "We looked at everything in order to right the financial picture," says Hugine. …

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