As accreditation fight approaches, Cheyney defends against federal lawsuit

Cherri Gregg
September 24, 2019 - 12:41 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Cheyney University — the nation's oldest historically black institution of higher learning — is gearing up for a fight this November to keep its accreditation. And now it's also fighting a federal lawsuit, with a disgruntled employee alleging misue of scholarship funds.

The lawsuit, seeking $150,000 in lost wages and attorney fees, was filed in July on behalf of plaintiff Nicole Rayfied, who once worked at Cheyney running the Keystone Honors Academy, which awarded scholarships to Pennsylvania students. She claims Cheyney officials misused Keystone scholarship funds to pay employee salaries, granted scholarships to at least 18 students who did not meet requirements, rejected students who did meet requirements, and failed to follow other state rules and guidelines. 

Rayfield alleges that, after she complained about the discrepencies, she was fired when she asked for leave to deal with a medical issue.

The lawsuit comes at a time when Cheyney is fighting to secure its accreditation. The school had been cash strapped for years. This summer, President Aaron Walton announced that, for the first time in a decade, the school had a balanced budget. And Pennsylvania lawmakers announced the state would expand the Keystone Scholars allocation from $2.3 million to $3.9 million dollars to boost the school's flailing enrollment. 

Walton and Executive Director of Enrollment Management Jeffrey Jones are named as defendants in the case. Cheyney University has not responded to requests for comment.