ATLANTA — Months after billionaire philanthropist Robert Smith promised to pay off all of the college debt of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019, the school announced it is dealing with financial struggles.
Beginning Oct. 1, Morehouse will implement furlough days for faculty and staff once a month for the next nine months as a cost-saving measure. This will impact its 415 employees.
The college said the reason for this is "the need to assist our students to matriculate at the College, despite challenges with the ability for some of them to afford the Morehouse experience."
In a release sent to 11Alive, the college went on to say: "We attract and retain academically-gifted and motivated students, but with our growing discount rate to keep them enrolled, we have to make some strategic decisions now to solidify our ability to continue to serve future generations of Morehouse Men."
The furloughs, officials said, will lead to a cost-savings for $3 million.
It is unclear if this cost-savings will go toward the 500 current students that have unpaid tuition and fees totaling $5 million.
In addition to the furlough, some staff roles will be absorbed, the college announced. The school said the number of staff members impacted by the cutbacks and absorption of roles is "small," and no faculty will be removed.
The college will also restrict certain expenditures "to ensure that the student experience, both inside and outside of the classroom, is maintained and enhanced, where possible."
There will also be a nine-month suspension of the three percent match to the employee retirement fund, college officials announced.
The college said the strategic expenditure decisions at Morehouse come at a time when liberal arts colleges across the country with tuition-driven business models are "grappling with tight budgets in the economic downturn."
Smith's gift has become a challenge - to new graduates and Morehouse alumni - to become more philanthropic within the bounds of their own lives and to pay the gifts forward in helping others around them.
Just last week, President David Thomas said that he was proud to also announce the Student Success program which is meant to provide an avenue for those who do not have the type of largess that Smith has but want to participate in some form of donation to the college.