Elizabethtown College is cutting staff and phasing out majors in theater and philosophy due to a shortfall in its upcoming budget.
President Carl Strikwerda last week notified the college community of a so-called “realignment for the future” — one that requires furloughing seven faculty and instructional staff members on July 1, 2020, and eliminating seven staff positions by the end of the month.
Additionally, 14 current vacancies will remain unfilled.
“While difficult,” Strikwerda stated in an email obtained by LNP, “it is in the best interest of our students and their families to better allocate resources, both human and financial, so the College can continue to operate efficiently and provide an exceptional educational experience to our students.”
The college is also eliminating its theater and philosophy majors, as well as minors in theater, peace and conflict studies, and film studies.
In those programs are 22 students, all of whom will be able to complete their programs even if they extend through the 2019-20 academic year, a college spokeswoman said.
In an email to students, faculty and staff in May, Strikwerda painted a grim picture of the college's upcoming budget.
To attract more students from middle-class families, the college reduced tuition by 32% — from $46,940 in 2018-19 to $32,000 in 2019-20.
However, deposits for incoming first-year and transfer students this summer have been “significantly lower than projected,” Strikwerda said.
As of May 21 — when the email was sent — the college received 379 deposits from first-time, first-year students, Strikwerda said. The 2020 preliminary operating budget “was built and approved for an entering class of 420,” he said.
The result: Michael Swanson and several others are losing their jobs.
Swanson, the director of theater and dance and a tenured associate professor of theater (and the husband of LNP staff writer Jane Holahan), was one of seven employees notified late last week that they're being furloughed next July.
“I was shocked and very disappointed and shaken up,” he told LNP in a phone interview Monday.
Cutting the theater program “at the very least is a cut to the basis of a liberal arts education,” said Swanson, who fell in love with theater after performing “All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” in a second-grade Christmas show.
Theater productions in 2019-20 will go on as planned, and Elizabethtown says it will engage “outside support” for future shows.
In a move toward more in-demand offerings, the college is promoting its new physician assistant master's program as well as new majors in marketing, finance, financial economics, data science and criminal justice.
Elizabethtown isn't the only college combating what officials say is a decline in high school graduates, particularly in the northeast U.S.
LNP reported in February that Franklin & Marshall College would cut potentially 40 positions to close an $8 million budget deficit in 2019-20.