ESU Announces Program Modifications And Reduction of Faculty Positions in Efforts to Remedy Long-Term Budget Concerns
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania announced plans to restructure specific academic and non-academic departments in order to address the university’s projected $6.9 million budget deficit for the 2014-2015 academic year, of which more than $3 million is a carryover from the current year. Modifications include the permanent closing of the department of movement activities and lifetime fitness, placing a moratorium on the bachelor of arts degree in music and on the bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in French as well as on minors in both French and German (located in the university’s modern languages department). Departments that will have reductions in the faculty complement are: chemistry, early childhood and elementary education, physical education teacher education, physics, and the non-academic department of counseling and psychological services. Majors will still continue to be offered in these academic departments. These changes will result in the elimination of 15 tenured or tenure-track academic faculty positions. Eight of those faculty members were offered transfers to other positions within the university at the same pay rank they have currently. Five faculty members were retrenched and two positions that will become vacant at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year will not be filled.
“We will do our utmost to minimize the impact of these changes on our students and their course of study. Students enrolled in programs within any of these departments will be able to fulfill their college experience here at ESU – the reduction of faculty positions will not affect their ability to matriculate. All students will have the opportunity to finish their degree programs at ESU. We understand this is a very upsetting time for students and their families. However, it is our duty to address budget shortfalls so ESU can continue its mission to remain student focused and continuously improve the student learning experience in preparation for the job market,” said ESU President Marcia G. Welsh, Ph.D. “Sadly, that requires us to consider the reduction of some faculty and staff positions while also making modifications to some academic programs. Throughout this process, we have remained incredibly sensitive to the impact this will have on the families of some of our own; but it is a necessary step in order to keep our university a viable, competitive and first-rate academic institution. This workforce plan is one of many steps that will need to be taken in the years to come as we continue to improve efficiencies in our academic offerings and the services we deliver to students outside of the classroom. The Division of Academic Affairs will begin working with faculty to develop an academic strategic plan with a focus on continuous improvement of our academic programs relative to ensuring we continue to offer a strong liberal arts core, as well as prepare our students for the workforce.”
“President Welsh and her leadership team have my full support for the very difficult decisions they have announced today,” said Mr. Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). “Their plan reflects their very excellent work to find the appropriate balance between existing and new programs, and more importantly finding sufficient resources to provide students with the areas of study they need in very challenging financial times.
“Like practically every other public higher education system in the U.S, the PASSHE universities are engaged in strategic realignment of academic offerings to achieve this goal. East Stroudsburg University is only beginning to scratch the surface with workforce plans that include some reassignment and/or notice of retrenchment to faculty, a deeply painful but essential component of the process.
“Further, I stand behind Dr. Welsh in her assurances to students and parents of those in affected programs that they will be able to complete their coursework for graduation,” added Chancellor Brogan. “The most important work we do is to provide our students with the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in their careers and personal lives.
“I will do all I can to help ESU – and all of our PASSHE institutions – in advocating for sufficient resources to assure our vitality and renewed growth so critical to the success of our students.”
In accordance with the collective bargaining agreement in place between PASSHE and Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) faculty, ESU is required to provide notification of faculty reductions by October 30, however those faculty members being released will remain in their current position through May, 2014. As a member of the APSCUF union, faculty members being released will also have preferential rights to any appropriate, vacant faculty positions that may be available at other PASSHE institutions.
These program modifications and reductions of faculty positions are only some of the ways ESU is attempting to close the university’s ongoing budget gap resulting from a decreasing number of high school graduates, low tuition rates, declines in enrollment, prior years of reductions in State funding, and increases in personnel expenses, while keeping a focus on degree programs with high student demand or changing workforce demands.
According to Welsh, the campus will identify ways to streamline degree programs to ensure student success, maintain and improve academic quality, and control costs. Many other cost-saving measures have already been in place at ESU for years to help ease growing budget concerns and other areas of savings will continue to be reviewed by ESU’s Leadership Team. Some of these initiatives are: reductions in operating budgets and identifying ways to make facilities more efficient, the elimination of non-instructional positions, a reduction in the number of temporary instructor positions and the utilization of one-time funds.
“These program and workforce changes at ESU have been under discussion since August,” said Provost Van Reidhead, Ph.D. “We have been diligent in working with members of the faculty to examine degree programs and course offerings at ESU based on their class enrollment as well as their ability to help our graduates get rewarding jobs in our global economy. We all must stand together and take a responsible role in positioning our students for a workforce that has grown, changed and evolved. The academic experience they receive at ESU must reflect the knowledge and skills college graduates need to get fulfilling jobs today – in this new economy.”
In August, ESU identified academic and non-academic departments to be considered for program evaluation and potential for the reduction of faculty positions. In September, three departments were removed from that list: English, reading and athletics (non-academic). On Friday, October 25, the university announced that seven additional departments were being removed: communication studies, history, modern languages, political science, professional and secondary education, philosophy and special education and rehabilitation studies.
“We are continuing to look at everything we can for possible savings,” said Ken Long, vice president for administration and finance. “There is a structural problem with our budget and we need to address it with a permanent solution. Historically, we’ve been able to ‘fix’ our shortfalls with one-time funds, departmental operating reductions and efficiencies and the elimination of non-instructional and temporary instructor positions. The workforce plans taken thus far are just a few of the many steps we’ll be taking to look beyond 2015, to continue to build a strong institution that will thrive well into the future.”