Clarion University released a revised workforce plan Monday that eliminates several academic areas and 36 jobs, including those of 18 professors.
At the same time, the state-owned school softened a sharply criticized plan to dissolve its College of Education and Human Services, opting instead to establish two separate schools, the School of Education and the School of Health Sciences.
The budget plan is one of a number being developed across Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities to deal with sharp enrollment losses, deep cuts in state aid and rising costs amid a slow-improving economy. Under the Clarion plan, roughly 36 instead of 40 filled employee positions campus-wide are being eliminated. Of the campus total, 18 are professors.
The smaller numbers are mainly because of retirements and reassignments, in particular among faculty, school spokesman David Love said. Layoffs include a total of 10 faculty this year and next.
The original plan called for dissolving the College of Education and Human Services and blending its departments and teaching programs into other colleges on campus with the possibility of pairing traditional teaching programs with disciplines like science to increase demand. The college now plans to realign the education college into two separate schools.
"The School of Education will focus on programs that best prepare teachers for the changing instructional profession," according to a university statement. "The School of Health Sciences will be comprised of programs currently in the School of Nursing and Allied Health, as well as athletic training, sports and wellness; communication and speech disorders; health and physical education; and rehabilitation sciences."
The university will phase out its bachelor's programs in music education and French. Students already enrolled can finish, the university said.
In addition, Clarion's College of Arts and Sciences will be restructured to reduce the number of departments to five. Among the changes is combining the communication and theater departments.
Clarion, like other members of the State System of Higher Education, has been scrambling to shift resources into growing student demand areas while reducing or refocusing other areas with shrinking enrollment, including those traditional teaching programs.
Clarion's revised plan calls for developing a doctorate of nursing program, as well as bachelor of science degrees in criminal justice administration, nursing and nutrition and fitness.
Since August, three of the State System's 14 member universities have announced sharp campus reductions including combined cuts of 150-plus jobs, among them about 90 professors, the largest teaching force reduction since the State System's founding three decades ago.
The first was Clarion, whose enrollment of 6,080 students this fall is nearly 17 percent less than three years ago and down by 440 students or roughly 7 percent in the past year. The university was facing a deficit of $12 million by the summer of 2015, Clarion President Karen Whitney said, triggering the moves announced Monday.
With deficits looming, "I felt that shifting and readjusting to take steps now will avoid what really could be a catastrophic moment for the institution."
In addition to the filled positions being cut, another 14 vacant slots are being eliminated. But if plans to hire seven new faculty in growing areas come to fruition, the net workforce reduction across campus would be about 43.
The plans have been met with anger by some faculty, students and alumni. Professors affected by the moves have begun receiving individual notifications of layoff, effective at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.
Elizabeth MacDaniel, who heads Clarion's chapter of the faculty union, said the plan even as revised is still problematic. She said it would have made more sense to spend a year or two "fleshing out the details that still seem to be missing" from the plan.
She said she believes Clarion's plan was, and still is, to dismantle the existing college of education and that any apparent softening is semantics. "It's more mainly realizing they messed it up big time in how they explained it," she said.
Ms. Whitney said should the multi-year plan be fully implemented, no further cuts would be necessary.
The full reorganization plan is available at www.clarion.edu/439450.pdf.
Timothy McNulty contributed. Bill Schackner: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published October 28, 2013 10:39 AM