Clarion U. to Dissolve College of Education Financial Pinch Forces Broad Restructuring Effort; at Least 22 Faculty Positions Cut

Article excerpt

Clarion University plans to let go up to 40 employees campuswide - - including 22 faculty -- and dissolve its college of education under a broad restructuring intended to offset sharply lower state aid, rising costs and enrollment losses.

The job cuts are part of a two-year workforce plan that university president Karen Whitney and other administrators say was drafted to help Clarion correct budget problems and position the state-owned university with 6,500 students for the future.

The plan discusses areas where Clarion intends to add resources, among them nursing, and other areas recommended for elimination, including music education. It says departments and programs within Clarion's College of Education and Human Services would be reorganized into other schools.

The idea is to ensure that Clarion by July 1, 2015, can meet future challenges and "continue serving students, employers and community partners as a public university," the 32-page document states.

The plan, shared electronically with university employees late Thursday, illustrates the escalating financial strains across the 14 schools of the State System of Higher Education, which saw its state appropriation cut by 18 percent three years ago and more recently has suffered enrollment losses as the state's high school graduation rate declines.

Clarion alone says it faces a deficit that would grow to $12 million if not addressed.

Steve Hicks, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said the recommended campus cuts, if enacted, would be the biggest in scope at any of the 14 universities since the system's founding in 1982. A union representative who attended campus briefings Thursday described silence and disbelieving looks in the room.

"People were shocked," said Elizabeth MacDaniel, chairwoman of Clarion's English department and president of the campus chapter of the faculty association.

She said she understands the need to respond to shifts in enrollment and to budget woes but said the school could have approached it differently, allowing the staff to shrink through attrition. She noted that the school plans to advertise for eight new faculty positions, while other employees with as many as 20 years of service would be put out of work. …