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Mansfield University planning layoffs, program moratoriums

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Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 12:00 am

Mansfield University will be cutting more than $2.5 million from its budget over the next few years.

Those measures include possibly laying off some staff, cutting back on programs, and eliminating several majors.

"The reason is that our appropriation is decreasing 13.5 percent," said Dr. Stephen Bronn, vice president for administration and finance.

The State System of Higher Education (SSHE) changed its formula for allocating funds to the 14 state-owned universities, Bronn explained. Mansfield ended up with funding cuts due to the change.

By July 1, 2005 - the beginning of a new fiscal year - Mansfield's allocation will be fully cut.

According to a budget adjustment plan released last week, every department, except the police department, is feeling the crunch.

"For safety reasons police personnel will not be impacted by any budget reductions," the plan notes.

Moreover, several majors may not be offered in coming years.

The university will recommend placing in moratorium four majors. Two other majors will have three years to increase enrollment or face a similar fate. The three foreign language programs will either need to join a teaching collaborative or be placed in moratorium as well.

Studio art, theatre, sports nutrition, and applied statistics and computer data analysis are being recommended for moratorium status. In addition, foreign language majors may end up taking higher level classes through other universities. Mansfield University currently offers German, French and Spanish as majors.

"I don't think this has any detrimental impact on Mansfield University," Bronn said, adding that MU does not have the resources "to be all things to all people."

He pointed out that the remaining programs could actually be stronger as those limited resources are reallocated.

"Clearly, I would prefer to have the $2.5 million in my budget," he added.

Moratorium means that no new students will be accepted into the majors. Current students would have three years from July 1, 2004, to finish their degrees.

Bronn said the university will work with individual students to help them graduate in the next three years. However, he also pointed out that students have a responsibility to try to complete their course work within that time.

Programs in moratorium could be brought back if there is sufficient interest and funding.

The university council of trustees will need to approve placing the majors in moratorium.

The council of trustees are scheduled to meet Thursday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Bronn said the administration will give the trustees an update on the moratorium proposals, but it will not be an agenda item on Thursday.

Many of the budget cuts include cutting staff. Almost all of the personnel cuts will come from cutting or not filling already vacant positions and assigning work to other employees.

Two employees will likely be furloughed. Four will be reduced from working 12 months to nine months. Three will go from full time to part time.

Those changes will be effective July 1. However, layoffs could be avoided if there are unexpected resignations or retirements, Bronn said.

Mansfield University is also considering adopting a late fee for student accounts such as tuition. That fee is expected to bring in $25,000 per year.

Bronn explained that Mansfield is one of the few schools in the nation that does not charge a late fee. He further explained that the university applies expected financial aid immediately, so only the amount owed by the student would be subject to late fees.

That late fee will also require trustee approval.

The Fine Arts Series, which includes the annual Storytelling Festival and four to five other events, will continue, but with significant cuts.

"We are going to keep the storytelling program," Bronn said.

The university subsidy for the Fine Arts Series program would be cut from $26,000 to $4,000 under the plan.

"While valuable to the community, the program is not central to the mission of the university," the budget plan states.

The plan also notes the importance of fundraising and generation of revenue from programs.

The bottom line, Bronn noted, is that the university will need to seek corporate sponsors and possibly charge higher admission for events to make up for the subsidy cut.

Another cut will be $15,700 from the major speaking program, possibly replaced with corporate sponsorship dollars. That program has brought in speakers such as James Earl Jones, Barbara Bush, and former president Gerald Ford.

Buildings and grounds will also see budget cuts totalling nearly $250,000, including several personnel cuts.

"The changes may also necessitate the consolidation of summer classes in specific buildings to maintain a cleaning schedule," the plan notes.

The plan goes into detail about the majors slated for moratorium, and notes that the office of the Chancellor requires a review of "small programs." Those are defined as programs with fewer than 12 graduates per year.

"A review of Mansfield's enrollment by program identified 54 programs that met this low enrollment criteria," the plan states.

Mansfield offers undergraduate degrees in 72 majors. The university also offers seven associate degree programs and six masters level programs.

The administration also reviewed how "central" the small programs are to the university's mission, the renewed Mansfield Plan, and the state Board of Governors' priorities.

Bronn explained that the mission includes three prongs: instruction, research, and public service. The contributions of each program to those three prongs were considered.

Of the 54 identified as low enrollment over the past five years, 28 were selected for review.

The following programs will be scheduled for moratorium, become part of a collaborative, or come up for review again in three years.

n Studio art. This major focuses on the creation of art. Mansfield also offers art education and art history majors.

Since 1998, enrollment has averaged 19 students with an average of four graduating with the major. Two full time and three part faculty members teach studio art. By eliminating the program, the university can eliminate all of the part time faculty and reduce another to half-time.

According to the plan, studio art classes that will still be taught as studios are part of the art education curriculum.

"A comparison of studio requirements of the SSHE school's art education programs indicates that our program requires 12 more semester hours of studio classes than any other SSHE school," the plan reads.

According to the plan, a revised art education curriculum can be offered with reduced staffing "including appropriate studio offerings."

n Theatre. Since 1998, average enrollment in theatre has been 12 students. In that time, three students graduated with the major.

"There are alternate opportunities for both of the faculty members in the program to continue teaching at Mansfield," the plan reads.

Mansfield University still plans to continue producing plays for the campus and community.

n Sports nutrition. This program has averaged 14.5 students since 1998. The council of trustees approved the program in 1999. Thus far, only seven students have graduated in that major.

The plan notes that there is now only one faculty member in that department and it will not be possible to offer both the sports nutrition major and the nutrition and dietetics major.

n Applied statistics and data analysis. This major was added in 2001. Only six students have enrolled and one person graduated from that program.

"In discussion with the faculty members in math and computer information sciences, they indicated no objection to eliminating this program," the plan reads.

n Foreign languages. General education course work in foreign languages would not be cut. Only the majors would be affected.

The administration is recommending the programs join a collaborative effort with Slippery Rock and Clarion. If they cannot or will not join, no other students would be able to major in that language.

Bronn explained that the collaborative would enable students to take upper level courses via the Internet or distance learning.

Since 1998, enrollment for French has totalled 16 students; German has totaled 24; and Spanish has totalled 55. Over the same period the graduation rates have been two in French, none in German, and six in Spanish.

n Fisheries. This program will have three years to develop a marketing plan to attract more students. Enrollment has been high with 60 students in 1998. For 2003, however, enrollment was only 26.

Graduation rates have not been as good, ranging from five to eight graduates per year since 1998.

n Anthropology. Sociology and anthropology are a combined program, but the number of students concentrating studies in anthropology is substantially smaller, according to the plan.

"They are going to start marketing the programs to see if they can get more students," Bronn said.

If either program cannot grow, it may be considered for moratorium.

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