president of Fitz Hill, Arkansas Baptist College,
got back to me tonight as promised on reports of financial difficulties there.
He confirms that the Little Rock college has been unable to make payroll — about $300,000 monthly — and has been unable to pay many vendors.
He blamed the problem, however, on recently discovered computer problems that led him to fire two IT employees and also to call in federal prosecutors to review the situation. He said he's learned that the college will have to spend an estimated $183,000 to get its computerized accounting and payments system working again.
The lack of the system prevents automatic transfer of federal funds due the 1,100 students enrolled, Hill said. That's the major source of college revenue. He insisted the college was solvent if the money it was owed is paid. "Absolutely," he said.
He acknowledged the problem had been in the making for several weeks and he was working feverishly to solve it.
"We are experiencing extreme challenges," he said.
The college is essentially operating without computer support. It has no Internet access. When payments are being made, they are being done by hand-written checks.
"Ive' been through trying times before," Hill said.
He said problems were exacerbated by federal budget cuts to summer Pell Grant support that benefits many of his students. He emphasized, too, the unintended cost of students unable to attend college when grant support isn't there. He said he's had two students forced to return home who were killed in violent incidents.