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A photo of UNC Greensboro's campus.

UNC Greensboro is among the institutions making the deepest programmatic cuts.

Denis Tangney Jr/iStock/Getty Images

Mainly citing increasing operating costs, complicated by enrollment challenges, numerous institutions recently announced or finalized plans to cut academic programs or jobs.

The financial squeeze being felt across the U.S. is especially palpable in the Midwest; three public institutions from Ohio are seeking to enact changes for fiscal sustainability.

A picture of a shattered pedestal under the words Campus Cutbacks

Past coverage of recent campus cuts can be found here, here and here.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has finalized a controversial plan to cut 20 academic programs across a range of disciplines, despite questions about the process.

UNC Greensboro leaders have pointed to low enrollment as the driving force behind the move to cut a mix of undergraduate and graduate programs, even as faculty members have accused administrators of providing erroneous data on the number of students in certain programs.

The majors slated for elimination are anthropology, secondary education in geography, physics, physical education and health teacher education and religious studies, which will live on as a concentration in the Liberal and Professional Studies Program.

The UNC Greensboro Faculty Senate voted last month to censure the chancellor and the provost for the program-elimination process, but Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam Jr. defended the cuts as necessary for the university’s future.

“I understand the human and personal implications of program changes. As we recognize those implications, it’s important that we keep context in mind,” Gilliam said in a statement. “UNCG has always modified our portfolio over time, eliminating and adding programs to remain relevant. Our current conditions and the higher education landscape require us to act more comprehensively and decisively. My decision is rooted in the University’s strategic direction; patterns in enrollment and demand; a need to prioritize faculty time and expertise; and where we see the greatest opportunities to grow, lead, and bolster our excellence.”

A spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed that 20 faculty members will be affected by the cuts.

“We expect some faculty in discontinued programs will choose to retire, others will choose other employment opportunities, some may be retained to contribute to general education requirements, and there may also be layoffs. In that case, we will follow University policy, which requires timely notice well in advance of termination,” a UNC Greensboro spokesperson said.

University of Toledo

The University of Toledo is suspending or merging 48 academic programs due to low demand.

“This prioritization process to reduce our degree program offerings is a strategic way for UToledo to respond to this challenging time in higher education as colleges contend with a declining population of high school graduates entering college, difficulties retaining current students and rising financial costs of operations,” the university website said.

Undergraduate foreign language and graduate education programs are among the hardest hit.

Toledo officials did not offer details about possible job cuts.

“While there may be some immediate cost savings, the goals of this effort are more focused on growth as UToledo’s student enrollment, retention and graduation rates improve as the University becomes more competitive,” a university spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed by email.

Wright State University

Wright State University, also in Ohio, announced last week that it is cutting 34 academic programs.

“It should be noted that 22 of these programs were already being deactivated by the departments and colleges in which they were housed as a routine process,” Provost Amy Thompson wrote in an announcement. “A listing of these programs is available on the Academic Efficiency and Effectiveness website.”

Targeted programs include a mix of undergraduate and graduate programs.

It remains unclear whether the cuts will be accompanied by job losses; a university spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed, “Employee impacts were not assessed.”

Baldwin Wallace University

Facing a budget deficit, Ohio’s Baldwin Wallace University is cutting 23 staff positions, reorganizing 13 academic programs and maintaining a hiring freeze through December, Ideastream reported.

“Like many universities across our country, both large and small, BW must always work to maintain a balanced budget. During the past two years we have operated with budget deficits, which we cannot continue to do,” university officials said in a statement earlier this month detailing plans to fix financial issues. “To address the operating deficit, we have looked at every area of the university over the past few months to ensure that we are operating as cost-effectively as possible. As a tuition-driven institution, it is imperative that we are operating efficiently so that every possible resource can be devoted directly to the student experience.”

Majors targeted for elimination include French, German, religion and philosophy.

Marietta College

Marietta College in Ohio plans to shed 36 jobs over the next three years, cutting a mix of administrative and nontenured faculty positions, administrators announced in a forum earlier this month.

The move comes after officials conducted an academic program review in the fall, which led to the college announcing it would drop 10 low-enrollment programs. Now it’s making personnel cuts.

In all, 22 faculty positions and 14 administrative jobs are set for elimination. Additionally, officials plan to leave 13 currently vacant positions unfilled, according to a news release. Tenured faculty will not be affected by the changes, according to the announcement.

Though Marietta’s enrollment has remained stable, administrators noted that tuition revenue has declined as the college has invested more in financial aid; operating expenses have also increased.

“It is vitally important that we maintain an operational expense base that can be supported by our revenues,” President Margaret L. Drugovich told the campus community at the forum. “We must address these issues at Marietta now, so that the college’s future holds as much promise as our past. It is our turn to set the stage for the next chapter in the history of this great college.”

University of North Carolina at Asheville

With enrollment falling by 25 percent over the last five years, the University of North Carolina at Asheville is planning to eliminate an undetermined number of jobs to address a $6 million deficit.

UNC Asheville has already limited travel and committed to employing fewer contingent faculty members in the fall, according to a university webpage that outlines budget issues and administrative considerations. But job cuts seem inevitable in the near future, according to the university’s website.

“Employee separations take place only after the University has exhausted all other possible measures. Because of the scope and timing of the deficit for fiscal year 2024, leadership expects that a limited number of employee separations will be necessary. Near-term actions to address the 2024 deficit will be substantially completed by the end of the spring 2024 semester,” reads a response on the question-and-answers page on the website.

Administrators have emphasized they are taking action now to bring down the growing deficit.

Concordia University

Facing financial instability, Concordia University will likely make cuts to reduce operating costs.

The university has campuses in both Wisconsin and Michigan, and university officials are looking to cut costs particularly at the Ann Arbor branch. Though enrollment at that campus has seen strong growth over the last decade—reaching a record high of 1,351 students last fall—it is still dwarfed by Concordia’s Wisconsin campus, which enrolled 6,274 students in fall 2022.

Potential cuts come on the heels of a financial analysis completed earlier this year.

“The situation is most acute at our Ann Arbor campus. This may be surprising to many of you, since Ann Arbor has enjoyed impressive growth in enrollment over the past decade,” President Eric Ankerberg said on a Zoom call with the campus community obtained by Inside Higher Ed.

While he noted that tuition revenue has increased at Ann Arbor, so too have operating costs. The university has not yet announced specifics about potential job or program cuts.

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