Education: Shorter ‘on warning’ from accreditation agency because of ongoing financial woes; university outlines steps to reduce those concerns. Also: Notes from annual audit showing enrollment plunge, budget cuts.

Education: Shorter ‘on warning’ from accreditation agency because of ongoing financial woes; university outlines steps to reduce those concerns. Also: Notes from annual audit showing enrollment plunge, budget cuts.

 

Shorter’s courtyard and fountain.

 

In context:

Shorter University has announced it is “on warning” from its accreditation team because of its financial situation — something it had anticipated because of ongoing financial concerns. The warning has no impact on the academic standing. Below please see a Shorter media release detailing some of the conclusions and mapping the university’s action plan.

For a related look, please see the annual audit report for Shorter University found on the Georgia Baptist Convention website. It lists the financials for the university, existing concerns and steps being taken to address those concerns. Noted are enrollment concerns, local bank loans and repayments, cuts in operating expenses. The audit shows:

  • Enrollment dropped by 1,300 students between the fall of 2012 and 2018. (Page 30)
  • Shorter has decreased annual operating budgets by more than $14 million in the past six years, in part through staff and faculty cuts. (Page 30)
  • The university has hired two marketing firms to increase brand awareness and boost enrollment. (Page 31)
  • The Thornwood campus is back on the market for $1.5 million; the university holds a mortgage of $1 million on the property. The site was to be part of a retail center anchored by Lidl. (Page 31)

Media release: At its June 2019 meeting, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges placed Shorter University “on warning” for one year for non-compliance with standards relating to financial resources. The ruling was not unexpected given the financial position of the university for a number of years.  The decision of SACS was based on a financial report for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2018.  Since that time, Shorter has taken several steps to demonstrate significant improvement and stability for supporting the university’s mission. 

First, the notice by SACS does not impact Shorter University’s academic standing; we continue to be fully accredited as an institution of higher learning.  In our most recent reaffirmation cycle, Shorter’s accreditation was extended for 10 years (the maximum period for any university).  The SACS notification does indicate that we must carefully monitor our financial planning and procedures to ensure that our financial status is strengthened.  

Among the many steps that have already been implemented to place the university on a positive trajectory towards sustainable fiscal viability are the following:

  • For the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the university has presented to the Board of Trustees a balanced budget, developed from a zero-based budgeting perspective.
  • As of the fall of 2018, we are free from all leased properties for the Adult Education Program in Atlanta.  Many of the students participating in that program have transitioned to our online program.  The one remaining long-term leased property (located in Rome; the Ledbetter business college at Midtown Crossing) will expire in 2021, considerably improving our financial standing.
  •  As contracts have expired in certain areas (such as food and cleaning services), the university has moved contracted auxiliary services in-house with better oversight and at a significantly reduced cost.
  • Right-sizing of staff positions (in accord with academic institutions of similar enrollment) has already taken place, as the on-ground adult education program has been phased out in the Atlanta area.
  • The university’s ongoing academic program review continues to evaluate the creation of new degrees, majors, minors, or concentrations and the updating of established programs; also,academic majors that have proven less attractive for students have been either reduced to minors or eliminated.
  • The university continues to find new sources of revenue through summer camps, new recruiting initiatives and increased fund-raising efforts: Lifeway camps continue to be a source of summer revenue and international recruiting looks very promising in both the near and extended future.  Fundraising has increased over the last several months, including substantial gifts allowing the university to renovate three science labs and studio theatre.  Moreover, a recent $100,000 grant has helped to upgrade our Nursing simulation equipment to support our Nursing program which ranks number six in the state of Georgia.

As a university we are grateful to have an accrediting body that holds its member institutions to the highest standards, and we embrace the opportunity to evaluate problematic areas, renew our commitment to excellence in all phases of university life, and move forward in an effort to make Shorter the best possible academic institution.  Enrollment for our incoming freshman class is trending well.  Our winning of the 2018 President’s Cup for the best Alpha Chi (a prestigious honor society) chapter in the nation is a strong indicator that our academic standing is the highest in the university’s long history.  If anyone has questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the university.

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