Local students worried about college cuts

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The College of Saint Rose is facing some serious financial problems and may have to start cutting programs.

Now students say they’re worried they won’t be able to finish their degrees if cuts are made to the school’s academics. The college is facing a $9 million deficit.

In order to get back on their feet, the president of Saint Rose is proposing program cuts and faculty layoffs. The students who pay some $40,000 to live and learn there are not happy. On Friday they’ll be rallying on campus.

Full time undergraduate tuition is $28,820. For a room, your fee is $5,974 per semester. And a meal plan; $5,904.

Right now the college has said that no decision has been made, but the cuts will target faculty and low-enrollment programs where the college believes they’re losing money. Students majoring in those areas are now worried they won’t be able to finish their degrees.

Since enrollment has gone down 15% since 2008 the college says they need to start investing in programs that students want and need most to save money and boost enrollment. Since the news of the proposed cuts, students and alumni have been circulating petitions online and on-campus demanding answers as to which program will be taking a hit.

On Friday the school’s president and board of trustees meet to make their recommendations. The college made a statement in response to the students concerns:

To our Saint Rose Community,

I am writing to bring you up to date on the process we have begun to position the College for the future and to meet the needs and expectations of our current and prospective students.

The success of our students now and in the future is our foremost consideration and our most important goal. Like many institutions, we are considering changes in our academic programs to ensure our students receive a well-rounded education and graduate ready to succeed in a global economy. At the same time, like many of our peers, we are confronting financial challenges. We are tackling these issues because serving our students’ best interests is the key to putting the College on a stronger financial footing.

In response to student interest, we are broadening our academic programs in areas such as accounting, communications sciences and disorders, computer science, criminal justice, graphic design and music industry.

These changes and our ongoing efforts to keep tuition affordable helped us enroll one of the largest first-year classes in our history this year with 650 students, drawn from 19 states and countries as diverse as Angola, India, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam.

As we move forward and grow, we expect that this process of academic program prioritization will result in shifting more resources to academic programs in highest demand. The overwhelming majority of our students will benefit from the changes we envision.

At the same time, we are confronting financial challenges. Saint Rose, like many colleges that have sought to increase enrollment, invested over the years to expand facilities and programs. We took on significant debt to make these investments. As we expanded into new academic areas, we also maintained many of our traditional programs even though enrollment was small and/or shrinking. Since 2008, total enrollment has decreased nearly 800 students, a decline of 15 percent. As a result, our expenses outstripped our revenues. To balance its budgets, Saint Rose twice made special draws on its endowment. This is not a sustainable approach. We must and will reduce our expenses, eliminate our debt, and put the College on a stronger financial footing.

To do that, we have refinanced our debt and lowered our borrowing costs; eliminated 40 staff and administrative positions, 23 of which were filled; eliminated contingency budgets; and reduced spending in many areas. We’ve stepped up our fundraising. The College received the largest single unrestricted gift in its history, $1 million. Overall gifts to the College have increased 137 percent in the last fiscal year. And in a dramatic vote of confidence in the future of Saint Rose, members of our Board of Trustees, with 100 percent participation, donated $2 million in just six weeks this summer.

Still more needs to be done. The College is facing a $9 million deficit in 2015-16. Our goal is to reduce that by $3 million and to eliminate the deficit entirely by 2019.

This financial challenge, combined with our need to meet the changing expectations of current and future students, has led Saint Rose to review its academic programs. Although no final decisions have been made, we expect to shift resources from no-growth or low-growth programs so that we can invest in and grow the programs our students want and need most.

This will create new academic opportunities in more fields for our students. Saint Rose will enable students enrolled in a department or program that may be reduced to complete their undergraduate or graduate certificates or degrees.

Understandably, this process has created anxiety among our faculty members, many of whom have devoted their teaching lives to Saint Rose. It is likely that these changes will result in job losses in some areas and new teaching opportunities in others. Our hope is to minimize the number of involuntary separations. Affected faculty who are qualified to teach in other disciplines will be afforded opportunities to do so. We are fortunate to have a dedicated faculty, and we will continue to treat each person with fairness, dignity, and respect throughout this process.

Assessing our academic program is a collaborative administration/faculty process based on Saint Rose’s foundational principle of “shared governance.” The participation of our faculty in this process is warmly welcomed, strongly encouraged, and beneficial to our students and the College, and a sign of the faculty’s selflessness and dedication to the best interests of Saint Rose.

Beginning in October 2014, I held three well-attended meetings to which all faculty and staff were invited to explain the college’s financial challenges and its plans. In recent weeks, administrators have met three times with the Representative Committee of the Faculty. The administration has continued to meet with other faculty groups, including the Strategic Planning and Priorities Committee, the Undergraduate Academic Committee, the Graduate Academic Committee, and the Department Chairs. In individual meetings and in larger groups, our faculty members, Department Chairs, Deans and administrators have been invited and encouraged to offer input and recommendations on multiple occasions.

We, the leaders of Saint Rose, have a solemn responsibility to chart the future of the College and to make decisions in a way that serves the best interests of our students and sensitive to the needs of the people affected by our decisions. It is my pledge to do so.

Thank you for your understanding and support. We will keep you informed, and I hope you will share with me any ideas, thoughts, or concerns you may have.

Sincerely,

Carolyn J. Stefanco, Ph.D.
President

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