Southwestern College President Brad Andrews on Friday announced spending reductions that he says will enable the college to continue.
A press release issued Friday stated the changes will budget cuts of $1.75 million and a loss of 13 staff positions.
Andrews said the need for the changes goes back to the previous decades’ recession.
“We are in the middle of a 20-year chapter of Southwestern College’s story,” he stated, “a chapter that began with the recession in 2008. Since then the landscape for institutions of higher education has been shifting dramatically.”
Andrews said Friday afternoon that the school has actually been discussing needed changes for the past five years, even before he became president in 2015.
He said colleges and universities across the country, particularly small, independent colleges, have had fewer students entering their programs, and the federal government has done away with some financial programs on which the college depended.
For example, the federal Perkins funds, used extensively by Southwestern College students in need of financial aid, were ended by the Senate two years ago.
“The college had to make up for that loss,” Andrews said, “and it affected our budget. But it was the right thing to do.”
Loss of the Saudi Arabian student population when that government decided not to fund them anymore also affected the school.
Andrews said members of faculty and staff as well as alumni and trustees were included in the process of rethinking how the college operates and how it will survive.
The Southwestern board of trustees, at its October meeting, approved a proposed plan to balance the college’s operational budget by next year, towards a surplus budget by 2021, the press release states.
In the last five years, Southwestern has had the first, third and fourth largest classes in the school’s history, Andrews said. This year’s class was the ninth largest.
In fact, in the past four years, Southwestern has experienced a 31 growth in enrollment. The college’s main campus enrollment of 612 full-time students is a modern record.
Nevertheless, there was a problem with this year’s budget. The college had budgeted for a class in the top 5 instead of a class in the top 10, so they are currently operating at a loss.
Next year they will budget for a top 10 class, something that is “realistic, attainable,” Andrews said.
All the issues add up to cutting a total of $1.75 million from the college’s operating budget.
An effort to reduce staff and administrative positions has been ongoing at least since Andrews assumed the presidency. In total, the college has reduced administration and staff positions by 13 percent since July 2015, according to the press release.
Andrews announced Friday that the college will open next fall with 13 fewer staff and administrative positions. Seven of the positions to be eliminated are currently unfilled and will be left open.
The remaining six positions will be eliminated through the non-renewal of existing contracts.
Andrews could not say what departments would be affected. He did say, however, that “We have done our very best “ to keep faculty, student affairs and coaching — the people with whom students have the most contact. Virtually all cuts will come from staff and administration.”
He has already spent a lot of time talking with staff about the changes.
“These are extremely difficult decisions, and they have real implications for our community and for people who we care about,” Andrews said. “We felt it important to let the individuals who currently fill those positions know as soon as possible, and we will honor the contracts of those who are impacted through June 30, 2020.”
Southwestern board chair and alumnus Kim Moore said the school has made remarkable progress to grow enrollment and cut expenditures over the past four years.
“The board and administration are committed to achieving regular balanced budgets, to get to a place where we have the capacity to regularly increase our investment in the future of the college,” Moore said. “We can’t be successful at that if we’re not living within our means today.”
Rick Cowlishaw, professor of biology and current faculty chair, was also quoted in the release. He said that despite the challenges SC boasts excellent faculty that offer unique learning experiences.
“On campus and in Winfield, we benefit from a wonderfully strong and supportive community that contributes in making Southwestern an amazing place to be,” Cowlishaw added.
Andrews plans to hold open meetings with with students, staff, alumni and friends of the college through the end of the semester for anyone with questions about the changes.