SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - WTOC has learned 26 Savannah State University employees have been told their contracts will not be renewed next year. This comes following President Dozier’s announcement last month that they were considering making cuts due to declining retention rates.
In addition to cuts, WTOC also found out that the Board of Regents Chancellor is sharing concerns about the current state of the University.
Savannah State’s graduation rate sits at about 27 percent, falling behind colleges like Georgia Southern with a 51 percent rate and UGA with an 85 percent rate. That’s according to data collected by the U.S Department of Education. Data also shows SSU is falling behind on its retention rates as well.
Last month, Savannah State President Cheryl Dozier sent out a letter addressed to faculty and staff saying, “Our enrollment has declined for two consecutive years and a drop in enrollment means a decrease in tuition, fee and state allocated revenue.”
Two weeks ago, 26 non-tenured faculty members were notified that their contracts will not be renewed for 2019-2020 school year.
These announcements come amid growing concerns from five Savannah State Alumni who have been in contact with the Board of Regents, sending the Chancellor a letter back in the spring.
"Areas of concern that we had, had to do with academic priorities, lack of strategic planning related to the academic enterprise, specifically a lack of a strategic plan at the university,” said SSU Alumni Lamar Rhodes.
Rhodes who now lives in Atlanta told WTOC over the phone that in addition to graduation and retention rates, they are also concerned about on-going security and student safety issues on-campus.
"The chancellor responded, saying that he in fact shared some of the same concerns,” Rhodes said. WTOC obtained a copy of the two-page letter that detailed how the University System of Georgia is helping the university improved saying, “We recently provided SSU with additional resources to enhance its surveillance camera system and have asked campus resources be reallocated to support the hiring for two additional public safety officers.”
The letter goes onto say that Savannah State is also participating in the University System of Georgia’s Comprehensive Administrative review, which aims to be more efficient with state resources which includes a thorough review of the school’s budget. In her letter to faculty and staff, Dr. Dozier says that review is what led to these budget cuts.
Even though there are efforts to improve, some of the alumni hope there’s still time to turn things around before it’s too late.
"I don’t believe that any institution within the University System of Georgia is exempt from merger. My concern is, the university possibly being weakened to the point where we become a candidate for merger for failing in several metrics as it relates to retention, graduation rates, enrollment decline which leads to layoffs and things that we are seeing,” Rhodes said.
Just to be clear, WTOC does not have any reason to believe that Savannah State will in fact be consolidated, but you should know, some of the universities that have been chosen for consolidation in the past have had similar issues with declining graduation and retention rates.
SSU officials tell WTOC that the 26 employees whose contracts were not renewed are faculty members who teach in three of the colleges.