College raises enough for faculty contracts

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — A Baptist-affiliated college in Southwest Virginia still has financial problems, but it has raised half of the $5 million it needs to remain open and announced yesterday that it has offered its faculty contracts for the fall.

Virginia Intermont College has received donations from alumni and the Bristol community, President Michael Puglisi said.

“We realize we still have a lot of work to do,” Mr. Puglisi said. “We haven’t let up.”

Officials of the 123-year-old institution announced in early April that they could not meet their $16 million operating budget and could not offer contracts to the 45 full-time faculty members. Only a few have resigned, Mr. Puglisi said.

The school is planning fundraising events and is close to filling the chief development officer position that has been vacant, Mr. Puglisi said. It is seeking to fill six vacant seats on its 32-member board of trustees with members who specialize in fundraising and business management.

The president said there are hopeful signs. For instance, the 925-student school is on target to increase the number of new students by 30 percent in the fall — from 151 last year to 200.

As part of a restructuring plan, the school announced last month that it was eliminating four athletic programs and ending its culinary arts program a year early.

“The timing was difficult,” Mr. Puglisi said. “Those were tough decisions to make.”

Eliminating some sports — men’s and women’s cross country, track and field, soccer and tennis — meant 60 to 70 students lost athletic scholarships.

As a result, the school has been able to reduce the amount it subsidizes tuition from 49 percent last year to 37 percent for the fall.

“We have offered too much in the way of unfunded scholarship support,” Mr. Puglisi said.

He said the restructuring will focus the school on its core mission. The school’s equestrian program, which recently won its third national championship in four years, will not be affected.

This is not the first time the college has had financial challenges. Faculty President Robert Rainwater said the school has faced budget crises at least a half-dozen times in the 26 years he has been there.

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