The University of South Florida announced this month that its college of education would become just a graduate school, phasing out university education degrees to help close a $6.8 million budget gap. In Ohio, Akron University, citing the coronavirus, successfully relied on a clause in its collective bargaining agreement in September to replace tenure rules and fire 97 union faculty members.
Even before the Pandemic, colleges and universities struggled with a growing financial crisis, triggered by years of declining state aid, dropping enrollment, and student concerns about skyrocketing tuition fees and massive debt. Now the coronavirus has amplified system-wide financial woes, even though well-endowed elite colleges seem confident to endure it with far less pain.
“We have been in aggressive recession management for 12 years – probably over 12 years,” Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, told his board this month when they voted to move forward with a proposal—merging half a dozen small schools into two academic entities.
Once linchpins of social mobility in the state’s working-class coal cities, the 14 campuses of the Pennsylvania system have lost about one-fifth of their enrollments in the past decade. The proposal, long underway but becoming more urgent due to pandemic losses, would combine the universities of Clarion, California, and Edinboro in one unit and the universities of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield in another to serve a region whose demographics are changed.
These pressures reached critical mass across the country in the months following the outbreak of the Pandemic. Governments from Washington to Connecticut, tightening their belts, have told public universities they expect significant funding cuts. Students and families, faced with skyrocketing unemployment, were reluctant to pay the full price for education mostly online, opting instead for sabbaticals or cheaper schools closer to home.
Costs have also soared as universities have spent millions testing, detecting, and quarantining students to prevent outbreaks. A New York Times database confirmed more than 214,000 cases on college campuses this year, with at least 75 deaths, mostly among adults last spring, but also recently involving some college students.
Freshman enrollments fell more than 16% from last year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported – part of an overall 4% drop in undergraduate enrollment, dropping tuition income.
The school’s plan follows a year-long review by the faculty. Still, higher education professor Mr. Kelchen said such consolidations could often allow institutions to scale down despite faculty labor protections and encourage people to positions deemed to be redundant to withdraw early.
Ohio Wesleyan University eliminates 18 majors. The administrators at the University of Florida took the first steps this month to leave faculty. The University of California at Berkeley has suspended admissions for his doctorate, anthropology, sociology, and art history programs.
As the coronavirus resurfaces across the country, the coronavirus is forcing universities large and small to make deep and possibly long-lasting cuts to fill growing budget gaps. The Pandemic is estimated to have cost colleges at least $ 120 billion, and even Harvard University, despite being endowed with $ 41.9 billion, reporting a deficit of $ 10 million that caused a tightening of the belt.
While many colleges have imposed emergency measures such as freezing staff and early retirement to save money in the spring, the continued economic downturn has devastating financial consequences, prompting many to lay off or renew employees, delaying graduates’ number even to be deleted or consolidated—core programs such as liberal arts departments.
“Even if the faculty can stay on,” he said, “they’ll get reassigned, maybe to teach in another department or do administrative work.”
Other schools are laying the groundwork now for cuts they expect later. University of Florida administrators took the first step in September to grant faculty leave to close an estimated $ 49 million deficit due to the coronavirus. Steve Orlando, a spokesperson for the university, said the next step – a formal leave policy – should be presented to the board this year.