Less than a year after cutting faculty because of budget constraints, Fresno Pacific University announced Thursday that 10% of the faculty will be laid off and 16 programs cut to counter a projected budget deficit.
The programs, which include chemistry, mathematics, philosophy, Spanish, and Biblical/theological studies, historically have had low enrollments, the university said in a news release.
The 88 students now enrolled in the programs — about 3% of the 2023-24 enrollment of 2,912 — will be offered the classes they will need to graduate on time, the university said.
Eleven faculty members will lose their jobs in June 2024 due to layoffs, representing about 10% of the faculty. In addition, the university will not fill another 12 faculty positions that are either open now or will be open due to retirements.
“We are in a dynamic and complex time in higher education,” said FPU President Dr. André Stephens said in a news release. “A season that calls for courageous leadership to face the historic challenges and emerging opportunities before us. A season that calls us to renew our imagination and cast our vision to see the students of the Central Valley and beyond achieve their dreams. Our renewed focus must be on providing an excellent, holistic, biblically integrated education.”
Alum: Board of Trustees Should Resign
News of the layoffs inspired alumni Justin St. George to start an online campaign calling for the Board of Trustees to resign immediately.
In the change.org petition, St. George said, “Today’s announcement indicating a third wave of layoffs despite accepting millions in COVID bailout money indicates years of financial mismanagement at the highest of levels on campus.”
Steffen declined to respond to a request for comment from the board or the university regarding the petition’s allegation of financial mismanagement.
Previous Round of Layoffs
In the fall of 2022 Fresno Pacific, a private Christian university in southeast Fresno, announced it was discontinuing five faculty positions, not filling eight vacancies, and accepting voluntary retirements from eight faculty members.
Thursday’s announcement said the decision on which programs will be suspended came after reviewing data and criteria developed by a committee of deans, faculty, and staff, the university said. The Board of Trustees approved the plan late last month.
The university also is moving to streamline academic procedures by consolidating its five schools — Business, Education, Natural Sciences, Humanities, Religion and Social Sciences, and the Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary — into two: a School of Arts and Sciences and a School of Graduate and Professional Studies.
The academic realignment will help Fresno Pacific contend with a projected deficit while focusing on areas of student interest. The university provided no information as to the extent of the projected deficit.
Although enrollments have not recovered from pre-pandemic levels, — they dropped by more than 1,000 since 2020 — traditional undergraduate and graduate enrollments rose this fall, the university said. The 10% increase for undergraduates was the first in 10 years.
“FPU continues to look for ways to innovate and plan for what is next,” Stephens said. “I am convinced amidst the challenges we face that these steps move us closer to the goal of being a financially sustainable institution focused on the success of our students.”