Retrenchments Loom Once Again

By John Reed
SC Staff Writer

On August 1, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) announced that East Stroudsburg University is one of five schools that are considering faculty retrenchment by the end of the academic year.

Though PASSHE is contractually obligated to announce any consideration of potential lay-offs, there is still time to identify any positions or departments that might be retrenched. The administrations of the five universities have until October 31 to officially reveal the specifics regarding potential retrenched personnel.

Though faculty layoffs have become a recent trend for state-run universities, these budget issues trace back to the State System’s budget cuts in 2010—in which the budget was slashed by roughly $90 million.

With retrenchment looming over the university again, some are uncertain as to whether faculty lay-offs are necessary.

“Most of the universities in our State System, such as Bloomsburg or Millersville, have not used faculty lay-offs or retrenchment as a way to make up the loss of state funds. They have made decisions about budget cuts without cutting faculty,” said APSCUF-ESU President Nancy Van Arsdale.

From the administration’s perspective, it is not necessarily about cutting faculty. It is about concentrating on the specific programs.

“Any retrenchment consideration in 2014 to 2015 would be heavily focused on program alignment—making sure that the courses and programs we offer are what students want and need in order to achieve professional success based on the current global job market,” said Director of University Relations Brenda Friday.

In an attempt to combat budget issues in another way, ESU has increased student tuition for the current semester by $99—which is roughly a three percent rise. Future tuition increases are something to monitor due to Governor Corbett’s original proposal of flat funding of the State’s appropriations.

With the same level of funding for the past four years–the budget is sitting at roughly $407 million—East Stroudsburg University has received approximately five percent of the entire budget—totaling around $21 to 21.5 million per year.

“The funding level of 1997 to 1998 was the same as it is this year,” said Ken Marshall, PASSHE Media Manager. The last time the State’s funding was increased was in 2007.

Out of the fourteen schools that make up the state-run universities, only three will receive less funding for the 2013 to 2014 fiscal year than East Stroudsburg. They are Mansfield, Cheyney, and Lock Haven. Two of these universities—Cheyney and Mansfield—are also considering potential faculty lay-offs by the end of the academic year.

With these continual budgetary issues, some ESU programs are beginning to struggle. The music department will no longer be available in the not-too-distant future.

“ESU’s music department will be dissolved when the teach-out for students is complete. It is also important to note that while administration continues to look for cost saving measures, the university continues to advertise for new faculty lines in academic areas where there is a high student demand,” said Friday.

“Today’s students deserve a good university system with appropriate funding. APSCUF does not want to see the music department be shut down,” said Van Arsdale.

ESU now awaits the deadline that will make these potential lay-offs more of a reality.

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