Lambuth University to stay open despite financial struggles

By Justin Hanson - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

JACKSON, TN (WMC-TV) - Efforts to save West Tennessee's only United Methodist church affiliated university may have been successful.

Just last month, there were talks the state might take over Lambuth University.  But now, school leaders say that's all on hold, now that they have a balanced budget.

"Our academic programs have been exemplary, are exemplary, will be exemplary," said interim president Dr. Jerry Isreal. "Lambuth is going to be here. It is going to be open."

When Israel took the helm less than a year ago, the university was facing an uphill financial battle.  Lambuth lost about $12 million during a three-year period because the school practically gave away student aid.

"The institutional dollars used for financial aid exceeded our ability to afford it," Israel said.

Tough times, plus a reliance on a donor base, forced a 30 percent cut in staff.  Since April, the school hasn't been able to make payroll.

"We missed it in May by 13 days," Isreal said. "We've paid two weeks of June, but people are still out two weeks in June and all of July."

"All of us are here for the purpose of making Lambuth better and helping us to continue," said staff member Christina Torres.

Lambuth staff members like Torres say their dedication to the school goes beyond the campus.

"The students, faculty, staff - we're all one big family and we support each other," she said.

"We've been here 166 years - a little college - and like the church, we're hard to kill," Isreal said.

And Lambuth leaders hope to come out of this financial struggle stronger and with a greater sense of purpose.

To find out more about how to donate to Lambuth University, click here.

Also, you can click here to see Lambuth's Facebook page.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.