Edinboro considers cutting five majors, enhancing others as budget deficit looms

Debra Erdley
| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:45 p.m.

Faced with a $5.5 million projected budget deficit and an 18 percent decline in enrollment since 2010, officials at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania are considering suspending five majors and as many as 40 faculty positions.

Edinboro President Julie Wollman announced the plan to faculty and staff on Tuesday afternoon at the school 100 miles north of Pittsburgh.

Wollman said declining enrollment, increasing fixed costs and declining state subsidies, coupled with a drop in the high school-age population, prompted officials to act.

The university, with an enrollment of approximately 7,300, is the second of the 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to propose job cuts to close budget deficits. Citing declining enrollments and stagnant state support, officials at Clarion University of Pennsylvania last month announced a plan to cut programs and staff to pare an $8 million deficit. And Slippery Rock University President Cheryl Norton is scheduled to address a projected $5.2 million budget deficit on Thursday.

Edinboro, Clarion and Slippery Rock are among 12 universities in the state system that reported declining enrollment based on preliminary figures released last week. Edinboro's preliminary numbers showed a decline of 3.4 percent this year.

Wollman said Edinboro's plan would eliminate 13 non-faculty staff and management positions this fiscal year. As many as to 40 full-time equivalent faculty positions could be cut by 2014-15.

University spokesman Jeff Hileman said Edinboro's union contract calls for a year's notice before full-time permanent faculty positions can be cut. He added that about half of the positions to be cut are held by temporary faculty, some of whom may be let go as early as the 2014 spring semester.

Edinboro faculty union president Jean Jones said she was shocked that the administration released the plan publicly prior to discussing it with faculty representatives.

“Unfortunately, management has spent years putting more money into capital projects and debt service at the expense of student instruction. Instead of overspending on capital projects, the university should have been preparing to deal with lower enrollments and fewer students on campus,” Jones said.

Hileman, however, said faculty members were part of discussions beginning in July.

Hileman said fewer than 100 students are pursuing the majors that would be suspended, which included bachelor of arts programs in German, music, music education, philosophy and world languages and cultures.

“The demand for those programs is such that it no longer is viable for us to continue them as majors,” Hileman said.

Courses in those subjects will continue to be offered as part of Edinboro's general education curriculum, and students enrolled in those degree programs will be permitted to finish them.

Meanwhile, the plan calls for adding or enhancing programs in animation and digital arts, forensic computing, industrial psychology, integrated media production, intercultural and international studies, leadership and water resource management. The plan includes adding graduate programs in animation arts, business and criminal justice.

“We're finding the emphasis on return on their education is inspiring students to look toward areas where they think they can get a good job, make a living and make their education pay off,'” Hileman said.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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