Hundreds of Cheyney University students, alumni, and supporters gathered in the Capitol rotunda in Harrisburg on Tuesday to rally for the struggling school that has been battling declining enrollment and financial issues for years.

More than a dozen state legislators took turns speaking to the large and boisterous crowd, occasionally participating in chants and, in the case of State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (D., Delaware), a Cheyney alumnus, leading the group in song.

"The message," said State Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D., Philadelphia), "is that every single elected official [should] get behind and support the fate of Cheyney University."

The historically black university outside West Chester has lost half its enrollment in the last five years, and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education reported over the summer that the school had mismanaged financial aid.

Still, speakers on Tuesday said that the school, which serves many low-income families or first-generation college students, was a critical institution that should not be allowed to fail. Most said the state should provide more funding and oversight.

- Chris Palmer