Mansfield U. to cut 54 faculty, staff jobs

Enrollment decline, reduced funds cited

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Mansfield University revealed plans Wednesday to eliminate 54 jobs, including up to 29 full-time faculty, in a bid to shore up its budget amid successive enrollment declines and sharp state funding losses.

The school becomes the third member of the State System of Higher Education to announce deep reductions. Clarion and Edinboro universities already announced plans to collectively let go nearly 100 employees, including 64 professors.

The planned professor cuts at Mansfield, a school with 2,970 students, appear to represent about 20 percent of the school's tenured and tenure-track faculty and 12 percent of the university's total workforce, based on data from the administration.

Mansfield, located in the northcentral part of the state, has lost 13 percent of its enrollment since 2010, including a 5 percent decline this fall, administrators said.

Its state appropriation is about 14 percent less than it was in 2008, and the school is projecting a $14.3 million budget shortfall over the next two years.

The university did not specify which program areas would be impacted by efforts to erase the shortfall, but the cuts are expected to be felt across campus. Employees working in individual departments are expected to be notified today and Friday about how the cost-cutting moves would affect them.

"These are difficult decisions affecting people's lives," Mansfield president Fran Hendricks said in a statement. "Those affected are all valuable to the university, but we also have an obligation to live within our means and operate in a responsible manner.

"We will be looking to our faculty and staff to reinvent the delivery of academic programs and ensure the continued quality of service and support for students," he said.

University officials said at least 25 staff and administrative positions are among the planned cuts.

Mr. Hendricks said enrollment losses are a reflection of the declining number of high school graduates in northern Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York, the university's prime recruiting area. He said the school has been working to develop new programs in areas of growing job demand.

Nevertheless, he said, the next two years "will be among the most challenging of the university's 156-year history."

Ron Straub, a special education professor and president of the Mansfield chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said the sting of the cuts will be over a wide area.

"It's not just going to be one or two departments," he said.

Mansfield did not place a timeline on the job cuts, but on other campuses, announced faculty cuts under union agreements could take effect at the end of the current school year.

"I feel devastated for the well-being of those individuals affected," Mr. Straub said. "Beyond that, I don't see how Mansfield University can sustain itself if it has to undergo this for a number of years."

Future cuts seem unavoidable if state funding is not restored, he added.

The State System's 14 universities enroll 115,000 students and get about 18 percent less in state support than a few years ago, though amounts vary by individual campus.

In addition to Clarion and Edinboro, system schools include California, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania.

education - breaking - state

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com.


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