ShareThis Page

Slippery Rock faculty union: Jobs at risk

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The head of the faculty union at cash-strapped Slippery Rock University on Thursday urged his comrades not to wait too long to decide whether retirement is in the picture this academic year.

“Timely information this year may save our college jobs,” said Patrick Burkhart, president of the Slippery Rock Chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.

Burkhardt spoke as part of university President Cheryl J. Norton's presentation to students, faculty and staff about the state of the university, which she warned has significant financial troubles.

The university is facing a $5.2 million deficit brought on by a “perfect financial storm” consisting of increasing expenses, including higher salaries and pension payments; flat state funding; and a declining birth rate that has resulted in fewer high school graduates throughout the region, Norton said.

Layoffs would be a “last resort,” she said. Some cuts could come through attrition from resignations and retirements.

Norton cautioned that the university's board of governors has said it won't increase tuition to balance budgets.

If left unchecked, Norton said, the deficit could rise to $29 million by fiscal 2015-16.

Even though the university has a student retention rate of about 80 percent, the student body is getting smaller, she said. The incoming freshman class is about 8 percent smaller than last year's. She expects the downward trend to continue.

Increasing enrollment “has to be a huge piece of going forward for this institution,” Norton said.

Even with an increase of 500 students next year, Norton said, the university would gain only about $3.8 million in revenue. For every 100 students the university loses, she added, the university loses $765,000. About 70 percent of the university's revenues come from tuition and academic fees.

Christopher Scott, 30, of Cranberry, who began teaching music and voice classes at Slippery Rock this semester, admitted that hearing about the university's finances concerned him.

“I see Slippery Rock as a strong institution, and our faculty and our administrators and our leaders, we're going to work through this,” Scott said.

Slippery Rock is not alone in its financial troubles. Several of the 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education have warned of deep financial problems. Edinboro and Clarion are considering job and program cuts.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.