From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Mary Holmes College up against the financial wall

Date 13 Jun 2002 11:24:22 -0400

Note #7207 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


Mary Holmes College up against the financial wall 

GAC requires business plan, fund-raising strategy by mid-October

by Evan Silverstein

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Financially strapped Mary Holmes College has until mid-October to meet four goals demonstrating how it plans to save the struggling institution or face doing without crucial funding from the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The loss of the church's contribution, which comes from the annual Christmas Joy Offering, could threaten the survival of the Presbyterian-related racial-ethnic college in West Point, MS. Mary Holmes' financial health has been compromised in recent years by declining enrollment and deterioration of the college's physical plant.

The goals, approved June 13 by the General Assembly Council (GAC), have to be met by Oct. 15. They were developed by a three-person "work team" and call on Mary Holmes to develop a comprehensive fund-raising strategy and business plan for managing the school's current financial situation. It also calls for the college to develop a strategic plan for changing its image through communication and new programming, and to increase enrollment by 10 percent in time for the fall semester.

"The college's financial situation is severely stressed," according to the work group's report.  "The college faces an immediate cash flow problem of $1.6 million and its total liabilities are $2.3 million."

The GAC voted to honor its agreement for providing Mary Holmes with its Christmas Joy Offering allotment through November 2003, but only if the college meets the Oct. 15 goals. This year, the beleaguered PC(USA)-related college received $286,560 as its share of the offering.

The work group will continue meeting with Mary Holmes officials to assess the school's progress in meeting the required goals. The group will make a final recommendation to the GAC's executive committee in October regarding the future of the school's Christmas Joy Offering allotment.

"The administration of the college has made a valiant effort to contain costs and there is the hope of a balanced budget for fiscal year 2001-2002," the report said.

However, the attempt to contain costs has been accomplished by "substantial reductions in financial support of the academic programs, equipment and deferred plant maintenance," the report added.

The members of the task force are Peter J. Pizor, of Henderson, NV, representing Mission Support Services, and two representatives of NMDC - Joe W. Rigsby, of Jacksonville, FL, and Donald W. Robinson, of Hot Springs Village, AR. PC(USA) national staff members, including Ferguson, also participated in the process or served as consultants. 

The work group has met twice, once last February in Louisville, KY, and then on the campus of Mary Holmes in April, where they interviewed and held conversations with trustees, community leaders and senior staff of the college.

In preparation, the work group reviewed board of trustee minutes, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation reports (Mary Holmes' accreditation is on probation). Also reviewed were consultant reports, a detailed financial statement and documents that guide the partnership between Mary Holmes and the PC(USA).

"The members of the work group and the (PCUSA) staff have been impressed by the commitment of the staff at the college and their desire to sustain the mission of the college," said the work team's report. 

The report said work group members noted "distinct signs of improvement" in the past two years under the leadership of Mary Holmes President Nathaniel Jackson, "especially in a reorganized and expanded recruitment program and improved community relations."

Under the proposal, Mary Holmes would continuing receiving Christmas Joy Offering proceeds through Nov. 2003 provided the school's board of trustees does the following by Oct. 15:

* Develops a comprehensive fund-raising strategy based upon a strategic planning process that demonstrates how the college will find sufficient funds to sustain its mission;

* Develops a comprehensive business plan that demonstrates a realistic strategy to manage the financial situation of the college; 

* Develops a strategic plan that shows a realistic, "yet visionary means" of changing the fundamental "culture" of the institution with new programs and a communication strategy that projects a new image of the institution; 

* Achieves an increase in full-time equivalent enrollment of 10 percent in the fall semester of 2002 with evidence of sustainability.
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