School's Out 

LeMoyne-Owen College struggles to stay open.

At LeMoyne-Owen College, school is out for the summer. But unless the college can raise $3 million by the end of June, Memphis' only HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) may be out for good.

At a meeting last week, the City Council agreed to give $3 million to the college over the next three years. The pledge has not yet been approved by the full council but seems likely to pass. Robert Lipscomb, Memphis chief financial officer and chairman of the college's board of trustees, says that he is hopeful that the state will match funds raised by the city and county governments.

Since the 1990s, the college has suffered a series of financial setbacks. In 2002, the school's $12 million endowment decreased to roughly $10 million, forcing it to cut corners to meet its $11 million annual operating costs. Due to its million-dollar debt, the college was placed on probation in 2005 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, putting it in danger of losing academic accreditation. Since then, enrollment has dropped.

But interim president Johnnie B. Watson remains optimistic. "The accreditation will [almost certainly] be reaffirmed," he said. "We have received a commitment from the city ... and have asked the county and state level for similar commitments."

Councilman Myron Lowery asked the college to provide documents proving that it will use the city funding to cover pre-existing debt. "LeMoyne has had some great managers in the past, but some of them haven't been good," he said. "I just want accountability."

Small HBCUs have been struggling in the past few years, with many people questioning their value.

"We serve a specific niche in the community," Watson said. "Low-income students, students who wouldn't be able to go to school otherwise because of low test scores or low grades, come here and leave with college degrees. Inner-city students feel more comfortable here. They go on to be successful, to serve the community. Without LeMoyne-Owen, what will happen to those kids?"

Though Shelby County is roughly 50 percent African American, almost 85 percent of inmates at the Shelby County Jail and the Correction Center are black.

"With numbers like that," said Lipscomb, "the college must stay open. The cost to society is too great. We have the power to intervene in bad situations and provide direction and support."

New Olivet Baptist Church is holding a carnival on the college campus on June 2nd to raise money for the struggling college. All proceeds from the carnival will go directly to the school.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The Latest

News Feature

The Six Fs: Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Food & Wine

Hen House Wine Bar Set to Open this Month in East Memphis

Tiger Blue

Tulsa 58, Tigers 57

Sports Feature

Memphis 901 FC Transfer Tracker - Pierre da Silva Off to Miami

Memphis Gaydar

OUTMemphis Celebrates Pandemic Wins

Beyond the Arc

Can the Grizzlies Keep the Streak Alive in Minnesota?

News Blog

Council Renaming Commission Discusses Requirements

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Cherie Heiberg

  • Med Alert

    The ailing Med suffers from a list of symptoms: uninsured patients, rising health costs, and aging equipment. Is there a cure?
    • Aug 16, 2007
  • Dog Day

    Animal activists chain off at motorcycle dealership.
    • Jul 5, 2007
  • Q&A: Henry Hooper II

    Green Beret, Secret Service Agent, Insurance Salesman ... City Councilman.
    • Jun 28, 2007
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2021

Contemporary Media
65 Union, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation