Cheyney University receives $5 million investment amid student concerns

The investment will support a program called 'ThinkUbator.'
CHEYNEY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The nation's first historically Black college has received a multi-million dollar investment from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

"It'll give students here a significant leg up and opportunity," said Greg Reaves of Mosaic Development Partners as he stood alongside leaders and supporters of Cheyney University.

Cheyney will receive $5 million from the state to support a growing program at the university.

"All of this investment is to give students, like the students here at Cheyney, the foundation they need to take advantage of opportunities like the ones that are becoming available right here," said Governor Tom Wolf.

The investment will support a program called 'ThinkUbator.'

In the program, the university partners with private companies to give students hands-on paid internships and jobs on campus.

Currently, there are four private companies operating with students through Cheyney's Life Sciences Center.

The goal of the investment into the ThinkUBator is to grow opportunities in STEM careers. It's a particularly important mission at HBCUs.

"Black Americans make up 11% of the total workforce but only 6% of the life sciences workforce," said Director Vanessa Atkins of the Life Sciences department at Cheyney University.

One of the students to benefit from the investment is sophomore Kishore Owusu, who already has an internship as part of the program.

"I'm ecstatic that other students will have opportunities like those that have changed my life," he said.

Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-7th District) said, "This is a moment that this university deserves."

But some Cheyney students say they deserve more.

"$5 million is not enough," said Autumn Mitchell, one of a handful of students and alumni who got together to file a discrimination complaint.

The complaint alleges that the state doesn't invest in Cheyney the way it invests in predominately white schools.

"There's a lot of repairs that need to be made," said Mitchell. "We are just asking to have the same opportunities as any other university."

Wolf agrees that more can be done for the historic school that has an enrollment that hovers at around 600 students.

"Is there more to do? Absolutely," said Wolf. "So I am in full agreement with the students who want to see more done at Cheyney."

Cheyney University President Aaron Walton says the damaged parts of older buildings that students mention in the discrimination complaint are not in use.

He added that dorm improvements, will start by this summer.

It's incremental progress from a university that was on the brink of losing its accreditation just a few years ago.

"I listen and we take advice from students, but we must run the university to make it sustainable for another 185 years," said Walton.

This new multi-million dollar investment could potentially pave the way.

"It's the beginning of great things to come," said Cheyney Council of Trustees member Ryan Boyer.

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