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MCU acting to shore up its finances

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

As officials at Mid-Continent University work on submitting the correct paperwork to release federal funding, acting president Ken Winters has announced several money-saving steps.

Winters met privately with faculty and staff members Tuesday morning. He told the group about several actions the school has taken, including temporarily laying off about 40 staff members, selling property and vehicles, and freezing new admissions. Winters was given broad authority to act on behalf of the Mid-Continent Board of Trustees.

The college has laid off about 40 employees, specifically in the recruitment department, staff working in off-campus, satellite campus, Advantage program employees and support staff positions in the athletic department. Winters said all displaced workers will be eligible to be recalled once the funding situation is fixed.

He said no athletic programs have been cut back and the layoffs don't affect current spring athletics. He also advised employees to be extra sensitive with operational budgets and that all proposed expenditures have to receive prior approval.

The school closed on the sale of acreage across from the main campus on U.S. 45 Monday. The buyer plans to farm on the land, according to Winters. He said about 19 acres on Pecan Drive in Paducah - which the school bought for $594,000 in June 2008 - is for sale, and officials met with a potential buyer Tuesday.

Following an evaluation of the college's vehicles and transportation needs, Winters said the school plans to sell 18 to 20 vehicles to gain revenue and save money on ongoing costs such as insurance and gas. 

The school has also frozen admissions and will not admit new students until the funding issues are resolved. Individuals can still apply but their submissions will remain on hold until the school receives federal financial aid again. Winters is hopeful that the moratorium will be lifted in time for fall enrollment. Some classes will also be delayed for one class cycle, which will not impact graduation, according to Winters.

The school received a reply late last week from the U.S. Department of Education regarding a fourth round of student financial aid and grant paperwork. The Department of Education requested additional data on the sampling of academic records from about 200 students. The school sent the documents to the regional office in Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 24 and then submitted additional paperwork on March 1.

Winters said he spoke with officials from the Department of Education about the difficulty of obtaining some of the requested data regarding former students. Department representatives agreed to allow Mid-Continent to present a new, fifth submission using up to 500 current students. He said the larger number would allow a bigger amount of potential funding from $500,000 to between $3 million to $4 million of the $9 million withheld from the school by the department in financial aid and grants. 

He said school financial officials are working to compile the larger sample and projected between two and 21⁠2 weeks before the paperwork will be complete and sent to the Department of Education. Winters said the agency is considering sending a representative from the regional office to guide the process and train school staff members. 

The meeting also included Winters soliciting ideas from faculty and staff members about foundations and individuals who might be interested in donating. He plans to call those potential donors this week. Winters said he will inform students with up-to-date information during upcoming chapel programs.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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