Faced with the need to recoup $25 million in recurring costs, a task made necessary largely by declines in state funding and increased pension obligations, the Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents today suspended several academic programs and eliminated 96 currently filled faculty and staff positions.
“It truly is a perfect storm and financial reckoning the likes of which EKU has never seen in its long and storied history,” said EKU President Michael Benson. “The reality of recouping $25 million is daunting, and our scarce resources simply cannot support every program we have in the past.”
A Budget Advisory Committee, appointed by Benson and representing a cross-section of the campus community, developed its recommendations based on several key strategies:
- Finding increased revenue through new online baccalaureate degrees.
- Elimination of a vice presidential position and other administrative roles.
- A return by Athletics to 2013-14 funding levels in line with other Ohio Valley Conference institutions. The University’s men’s and women’s tennis teams were eliminated. Athletics, which shouldered the largest percentage of the total budget cuts, will launch a women’s beach volleyball program, a move that is expected to be revenue-neutral.
- Closure of the University’s regional campus in Danville.
- Employee reduction of 153 full-time positions, to include 96 filled positions, 57 vacant positions and an additional 37 Retirement Transition Program-partial lines.
- Suspension or transition of academic programs.
In all, the Committee recommended hundreds of cost-reduction strategies, with yields ranging from approximately $1 million to $300. The Board accepted all but one of the strategies, choosing to table discussions regarding the suspension of the specialist degree in school psychology until its June meeting to discuss a possible transition to an online or hybrid format.
The suspended programs, identified because of enrollment trends, degrees awarded, potential growth and, in one case, changing professional requirements, are:
- Theatre, two certificates and two minors. It was noted that the School of Music will continue to produce a musical each academic year, and that a theatre club may be established.
- Economics, BA degree and minor. General education and support courses will be retained.
- Associate Degree Nursing, ASN degree. The program has been successful; however, in light of performance-based funding criteria, the University is reducing stand-alone associate degree programs. Because most high-acuity hospitals in the region require a bachelor’s degree within two years of hire, Eastern is prioritizing growth of its baccalaureate degree nursing program.
- Nursing and Nursing Administration, MSN degree concentration only.
- Family and Consumer Sciences Teaching, BS degree.
- Exercise and Sport Science (Physical Education), Physical Education and Health/Teaching, BS concentrations.
- Deaf Studies, BA degree. More students may pursue a bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language as a result.
- American Sign Language Studies, MA degree, a degree that was scheduled to begin in 2017 but enrolled no students.
- Risk Management and Insurance, BS degree, with students transitioning to a BBA degree in the same field.
- Business and Marketing/Teaching, BS degree, with a plan to develop a concentration in the general business degree.
- Chemistry, BA degree, with students moving to the BS degree program in chemistry.
- Mathematics Teaching, BS degree, with students transitioning to an option under the BS degree in Mathematics.
- Mathematical Sciences, MS degree, with students transitioning to the MA degree in Mathematics.
- Art/Design Studio and Sculpture, BFA concentrations.
- Religion, minor.
The University will “teach out” each program to meet the educational needs of students currently pursuing a degree in all the affected programs.
“No plan is perfect, and we can only attempt to do our best,” said Board Chair Craig Turner. “Unfortunately, we cannot cut our way out of the current situation. The ultimate answer is we must increase enrollment and optimize our most successful programs. Eastern Kentucky University is a great institution. It is our collective obligation to see that it remains that way.”
Turner lamented the loss of jobs. “There is no way to reach the University’s financial obligations without a reduction in force,” he said. “It is by far the most painful part of this process. Considering the magnitude of our financial shortfall, unfortunately, there is no choice but to reduce the number of employees at the University. It is by no fault of theirs that positions must be eliminated, but it is a brutal reality of the budgetary times in higher education.”
In other action, the Board:
- approved freezing graduate and online tuition rates for 2018-19, except the master’s non-resident cost, which will drop 3 percent.
- approved freezing tuition and fees at all levels of Model Laboratory School for 2018-19. A new asset preservation fee ($100) will be levied for all grades.
- presented a resolution of recognition to EKU student Omar Salinas Chacón, who earlier this academic year was named Student of the Year by the National Collegiate Honors Council. Chacón is a participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.