WILBERFORCE — Wilberforce University is in the midst of a major fund-raising campaign aimed at improving the school’s financial profile.
The school is hoping to raise $2 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Although Wilberforce attempts to raise money every year, this has become a much-more public effort because of myriad issues at the country’s oldest Historically Black University.
In January a pipe burst in Henderson Hall, forcing male students to relocate to the Ramada Inn in Xenia. Wilberforce is also hoping to offer competitive compensation to faculty and staff and provide financial support for students in addition to expanding academic programs.
“The reason why were giving this special attention is because we want to establish a culture of philanthropy,” President Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard said. “We want to make sure that all of our constituents, those who care about Wilberforce, are getting into the habit of giving on an annual basis. We decided to apply a little bit more rigor and discipline to the practice of fund-raising.”
The campaign — Wilberforce Unite — will also help the university prove itself to the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accrediting body. The HLC placed Wilberforce on probation last June because financial statements show “significant financial decline” since the school was removed from show-cause status by the HLC. If Wilberforce is no longer accredited, students could lose the opportunity to obtain financial aid.
”We are very clear about the position of Wilberforce and the narrative that has been developed,” Pinkard said. “We recognize that we’ve had some challenges.”
According to a letter from HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley, Wilberforce is on probation because “it is out of compliance with the criteria for accreditation” related to teaching and learning as well as resources, planning, and institutional effectiveness.
In addition to the financial decline, the HLC cited that the institution’s growth of liabilities and loss of net assets have continued in the same trajectory since FY 2013, which led to the show-cause status. In fiscal year 2017, Wilberforce operated at a deficit of $19 million while audited net assets for the same period were $9.4 million.
The university is required to provide evidence that it has addressed the issues that led to the sanction, no later than Oct. 1, 2019 in preparation for HLC’s on-site evaluation no later than December 2019.
Pinkard said university officials are ““Doing everything we can to make ourselves whole again permanently.”
“The message here is that there is a Renaissance and rebirth and a transformation going on here at this university,” he said. “This is our way of saying we’re here, we’re alive. We’ve been very thoughtful about our future.”
In June 2020, the HLC Board of Trustees will determine whether the institution has demonstrated that it is in compliance with the criteria for accreditation and whether probation can be removed.
“(The HLC wants) to see evidence that the university has been strategic and intentional in fundraising,” Pinkard said. “This is a call to action for everyone”
As of Wednesday afternoon the university had raised $196,016.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.