Students and faculty at the College of Saint Rose on Friday braced for a new round of budget cuts in the face of a $9 million deficit, expecting cuts would trim some academic programs and faculty.
As university President Carolyn Stefanco on Friday prepared to recommend to the board of trustees a plan for “academic program prioritization,” about 100 students, faculty, staff and alumni protested the cuts.
School officials said they hope to trim the school’s deficit by $3 million next year and eliminate it by 2019. This past spring, they refinanced their debt and eliminated 40 staff and administrative positions, 23 of which represented actual layoffs.
School officials worked with school deans and faculty members throughout the summer and fall, and they also considered enrollment data and market research on prospective students’ interests to develop a proposal that would shift resources from “no-growth or low-growth” programs.
“What we have been interested in discerning is … which programs are appropriately balanced and which programs really are not, where more resources may be devoted to the program than one can justify,” Stefanco said in a phone interview Thursday.
But professors and students protesting the potential cuts Friday said the administration’s focus on finding savings in “low-growth” programs was misplaced and could diminish the school’s liberal-arts emphasis.
Picketing in front of the administrative offices, protestors carried signs emblazoned with messages such as “Liberal Arts RIP” or “Save Saint Rose” and chanted, “They say cut, we say fight back … Education not corporation!”
Angela Ledford, a political theorist and head of the school’s political science and history department, said the cuts could hurt the school’s strength — a liberal-arts education and close student-faculty relationships.
She added that administrators had skewed program enrollment levels by emphasizing and marketing some programs more than others.
“When you devastate these programs … you are damaging and destroying that broad-based liberal-arts education,” Ledford said. “We are not training students for a job; we are fostering a lifelong love of learning.”
Stefanco said Saint Rose has turned around sliding enrollment numbers, which after dropping 15 percent since 2008 hit a near-record freshman class of nearly 650 students this fall. Stefanco added that the school was shifting resources to high-demand programs such as accounting, computer science, graphic design and music industry.
She said serving the needs and interests of prospective students was key to driving growth and putting the school on stable financial footing. She declined to comment on the specific proposal on Thursday. The school expanded its physical footprint in the past decade, taking on debt just as the school’s enrollment, and main revenue source, declined.
At the protest Friday, two business students said they thought it was wrong for the school to shift its focus too far toward business and other high-popularity programs at the expense of other fields of study.
And a longtime Saint Rose employee, Sister Honora Kinney, who has taught history and now works in the library, said she worries that school leaders have a fundamental misunderstanding of the school culture.
“It’s sad she doesn’t understand,” Kinney said of Stefanco.