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Clarion University to cut staff, courses

| Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, 9:23 p.m.

Clarion University of Pennsylvania will pare an $8 million budget deficit through a combination of layoffs, attrition and course cancellations over the next two years under a proposed workforce plan.

The proposal, released late Thursday, calls for the elimination of one part-time and 54 full-time positions across the university through attrition, retirement or furlough, the suspension of the music education program and the elimination of German and French courses.

Clarion President Karen Whitney said the university will accept comments on the 32-page proposal until Aug. 19. It is available online at clarion.edu/workforceplan.

“Our emphasis here is on orderly transitions. We want students and alums to comment on this plan. And then we're going to work individually for an orderly transition. Throughout this our No. 1 priority is the students,” Whitney said, adding that no courses will be canceled this year.

Clarion, which is about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, experienced an 8.7 percent decline in enrollment between 2008 and 2012, and is projecting a drop of about 6 percent in undergraduate enrollment this year to 5,285 students.

Whitney said the combination of declining enrollment, a shrinking pool of traditional high school-age students in the region and an 18 percent decline in state subsidies since 2010 combined to make an $8 million budget deficit that would increase to $12 million by 2015, absent major changes.

She stressed that the workforce plan proposes enhancements in areas in which enrollments have been increasing, including business, science and technology, and the health professions. It looks to revitalize teacher education, a program that has been plagued with declining enrollments both at Clarion and elsewhere.

Whitney, who came to Clarion three years ago, said the workforce plan was a local initiative.

“This was a product of hundreds of hours of discussion with university leadership and bargaining units in term of consulting, dialoguing, asking for comments and ideas,” Whitney said.

Faculty spokesmen could not be reached for comment late Thursday. Whitney said bargaining unit leaders were given advance copies of the proposal.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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