Cheyney University President and former business wiz Aaron Walton is overseeing big changes at the state-run historically Black university.
Walton said during a phone interview that despite the pandemic, the university has continued an obligation to maintain stability and consistency toward its goal to educate both minority and non-minority students.
Enrollment is holding steady at about 650 students heading into the fall semester after having reached a high of about 3,000 students about 30 years ago.
The “rightsizing” was intentional.
Walton noted that education is now different than it was just 20 years ago. He said that the population has decreased, leading to more competition for student enrollment.
“In today’s world you have to be unique,” Walton said.
With that goal in mind, the school is becoming more of a “boutique university.”
“We can’t be all things to all people and the university can’t offer a wide array of programs,” he said.
Much of the university’s focus has turned to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs. Students are studying from more of a science perspective, including both cancer research and pharmaceutical involvement.
Partners have moved into campus buildings and more businesses are planning to do the same. Changing the way students learn and new Science Center tenants include: Navrogen Biotech Company; ASI Chemicals, which leads pharmaceutical research; EPCOT Crenshaw Corporation, an analytical services firm; and Advanced Alchemy Labs, a CBD processing lab.
As part of the boutique college experience, students take paid internships and gain real hands-on experience, while matriculating at the university.
The school has balanced its budget every year since the 2018/19 school year on a path of financial soundness, Walton said. Not since 2011 had Cheyney balanced the books.
The college, located in both Delaware and Chester counties, is looking to perform some upgrades to dorms and other buildings to make them more attractive to students.
Walton said that he is thankful for the support of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Legislature.
The five-year president said the university seeks student success, financial stability and a dedication to excellence.
“We are focusing on infrastructure and programs that will support all three of these pillars,” he said.