MOORHEAD — Minnesota State University Moorhead released details on Wednesday, April 15, about the programs and positions expected to be eliminated under a plan aimed at addressing a $6 million budget shortfall forecast for fiscal year 2022.
Of the university's current 632 full-time employees, the plan over the next several years is to cut 66.5 positions, including three administrator positions (a 15% reduction), 43 faculty positions (a 14% reduction) and 20.5 staff positions (a 7% reduction).
Those numbers include about eight vacant faculty positions and four vacant staff positions that will not be filled.
The proposed plan also includes the closure or suspension of 10 academic majors. The programs include:
- public relations (integrated advertising and public relations will still be offered.)
- American multicultural studies
- international studies
- philosophy bachelor's degree
- school psychology
- Spanish education
- theater arts
- teaching English as a second language (graduate)
School officials said students currently enrolled in the programs marked for elimination will be able to complete their degrees and that faculty and staff will work with students to ensure that their degrees can be completed in a timely manner.
Matt Craig, MSUM Faculty Association president, said the association was deeply troubled by the decision to lay off an unprecedented number of faculty.
"We will push the (university) president to reverse as many of the announced layoffs as possible before they go into effect," Craig said, adding that the cuts will fundamentally weaken MSUM's capability to serve students and the community.
Craig said most layoffs will take effect after the 2020-2021 academic year.
Details of the university's budget plan were released Wednesday morning during a virtual town hall meeting for the campus community.
MSUM President Anne Blackhurst said during the meeting, which was live streamed, that the decisions were difficult but necessary because "our costs are outpacing our revenues."
Officials said a $25,000 early retirement incentive will be offered on a limited basis to some employees who are at least 55 and have been employed at the school at least five years. Depending on how many people accept the incentive and the division they work in, it's possible some proposed layoffs wouldn't happen, officials said.
A university-wide committee developed the budget plan based on factors such as state funding, tuition rate and enrollment as well as projections for personnel and operational expenses. Officials stressed that the forecast budget shortfall is not a direct result of the state’s stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are living in an era that requires virtually every industry to reinvent itself," Blackhurst said. "These changing expectations represent both challenges and opportunities as we plan for our future."
MSUM officials stressed that the university will continue to offer programs that address regional workforce needs, including online masters and doctoral programs for educators. MSUM will also keep adding faculty and staff in growing programs, including a new bachelor's degree in its nursing program.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Blackhurst said that of the positions being eliminated, only one pertained to athletics. She said no sports programs would be affected.
Blackhurst acknowledged the legacy of the school's theater arts program and its Straw Hat Players summer theater company. But she said attendance at Straw Hat productions is not what it once was, adding that enrollment in the theater program also was a factor.
She noted that 77% of MSUM graduates come from 34% of the school's programs, adding that of the roughly 6,000 students attending MSUM, the 10 programs being eliminated or merged serve a total of 175 students.
Blackhurst said that although the reductions are being driven by clear changes in student demand, they are difficult nonetheless.
"These are hard, hard decisions to make," she said, adding that Tuesday, when employees were notified their jobs were likely going away, was "the most difficult day of my time at the university."
Asked whether the cuts marked a shift by MSUM away from the liberal arts, Blackhurst said that while the university has had a strong liberal arts reputation over the years, its most robust programs have always been areas like education, business, social work and nursing.