Edinboro University plans faculty, program cuts

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Many Edinboro University professors and staff already were home Tuesday evening and checking their inboxes remotely when ominous messages started arriving, not long after a meeting of school trustees had adjourned.

"It was literally, open up your email after dinner and see your department is going to lose some faculty, and maybe you," Jean Jones, a professor and president of the campus faculty union, said Wednesday in describing reactions of her colleagues. "We're really reeling from this."

Edinboro has become the second state-owned university in Pennsylvania to say it has too many professors and other employees but not enough students. It unveiled a plan to cut more than 50 workers universitywide, including 42 faculty positions.

In addition, the university that has lost nearly one-fifth of its students since 2010 recommends that an enrollment moratorium be imposed on Bachelor of Arts programs in music, music education, German, philosophy and world languages and cultures, officials confirmed.

Students already enrolled in those majors would continue to be taught, but no new students would be accepted, Edinboro spokesman Jeffrey Hileman said. It is expected that those programs eventually would be eliminated, he added.

The Operations and Workforce Plan that Edinboro president Julie Wollman shared electronically with the campus is intended to help the school confront a $5.5 million deficit in its budget of $95 million for 2013-14.

Edinboro, like most of the State System of Higher Education's 14 member universities, has been dealing with the triple effect of a sluggish economy, enrollment losses tied to a decline in high school graduate numbers, and a state appropriation that is 18 percent smaller than a few years ago.

Edinboro, in northwestern Pennsylvania, has been particularly hard hit. The university says it has lost 18 percent of its enrollment since 2010, including a projected 4.5 percent decline this fall to 7,098 students.

Ms. Wollman said faculty levels have not been adjusted to reflect the loss of 1,545 students during those years.

"We have too many faculty based on our enrollment," she said. "It's not sustainable."

Her plan says the university has a 16.5 to 1 student-faculty ratio. "Our budget model indicates that it must be just above 20 to break even," the four-page document released by the university says.

Programs in areas of expected growth may receive additional resources, among them animation and digital arts, criminal justice and information technology, the plan states.

Edinboro's chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties had expected to be briefed on details of the university's plan at a meeting scheduled with administrators Friday.

Ms. Jones acknowledged the financial pressures facing her university. But she said she was "shocked" that Edinboro had apparently pre-empted that Friday meeting with Tuesday's campus announcement, and she said the cuts amounting to about 12 percent of the teaching force seem shortsighted.

She said Edinboro is proposing a new program in intercultural and international studies "but in the same proposal they are talking about putting a moratorium on our world languages and cultures program," she said.

"In a global world, they're thinking about removing foreign language studies," she added.

The meeting with administrators is still on for Friday. State APSCUF president Steve Hicks said he intends to join the session.

"I can't believe how they rolled out the whole process, but on top of that, I can't believe the numbers," he said. "It's pretty incredible."

Edinboro says it has kept the union in the loop. The school's announcement follows a workforce plan unveiled last month at Clarion University.

Dozens of job cuts including up to 22 faculty members are part of the Clarion plan, which also includes eliminating several programs and a proposal to dissolve Clarion's college of education and blend its departments and programs into other colleges on campus.

All but one of the Edinboro faculty positions slated for elimination are currently filled, according to Mr. Hileman. About half are tenure or tenure-track positions, he added.

"They are from various areas of the university. We are not able to discuss specifically from where," he said.

Faculty cuts likely would come at the end of the current school year, with individual professors receiving notifications in October or later in accordance with union rules. In addition, 13 staff and management positions are being eliminated, Mr. Hileman said.

According to Edinboro's plan, the school is weighing investment of additional resources in potential growth areas, including undergraduate programs in animation and digital arts, forensic computing, industrial psychology, integrated media production, leadership water resource management, and intercultural and international studies.

It also suggested potential for new graduate programs in animation arts, business, criminal justice and information technology.

Edinboro's workforce document says the school previously relied on managerial and staff attrition, as well as operational savings and made attempts to increase revenue through stepped up recruiting and limiting the number of students who drop out or suspend their studies. But it said those efforts have not been enough to fully address the shortfall.

"Teaching faculty represents 63 percent of our personnel budget, and we can only achieve necessary expense reductions if we address academic expenses as well as other areas on campus," the plan states.

education - breaking - region

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977. First Published September 11, 2013 5:15 PM


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