Financial struggles may lead to no-confidence vote at Pennsylvania college
- Administrators at York College, a small private institution in Pennsylvania, are looking to increase health insurance fees, cut severance packages and reduce institutional contributions to the retirement fund in an effort to reduce budgets by $1.4 million, according to the York Dispatch. The cost-cutting measures have drawn the college's shared governance body to reject the measures and to accuse administration of leaving faculty members out of finance and management planning.
- Faculty members say that enrollment has been falling by an average of 100 students since 2011, resulting in a $10 million dip in tuition revenues. When combined with costs from the college working to transition to university status (adding programs and support services), professors also say they are being unfairly targeted for cuts that could be taken from other areas of the institution.
- In a letter to the campus community last month, York College President Pamela Gunter-Smith told the campus community that cuts were being made across the institution, with senior leaders reducing department budgets by more than $1 million in unfilled staff positions.
Pennsylvania is a litmus test for the nation’s struggle with how to maintain higher education in changing times. Its reaction to population loss, shrinking industry and the impact of large state institutions has forced lawmakers to consider consolidations as the ultimate answer.
Additionally, with public trust steadily waning in higher education, it is natural that the lack of faith in the academic enterprise would eventually extend to faculty and staff members. The University of Massachusetts System is the most recent among college networks to receive a no-confidence vote from faculty members for its efforts to expand the flagship campus that faculty members say puts an urban campus at risk of financial instability.
Late last year, the University of Wisconsin-Superior faculty senate voted no confidence in the institution's administration, in the wake of a decision to suspend more than two dozen academic programs. In response, University of Wisconsin System leaders affirmed their support for Chancellor Renee Wachter and the changes.
"In light of a history of declined enrollment is some classes, [Wachter] put forth a very reasonable and appropriate plan to focus the University's resources on better aligning to the needs of northern Wisconsin," UW System President Ray Cross said.