Franklin & Marshall College will cut staff as it faces an $8 million budget deficit caused in part by an increased commitment to financial aid, its president said Tuesday.

President Barbara Altmann said about three-quarters of the deficit will be addressed in the $133 million 2019-20 fiscal budget.

“A big piece” of it will consist of nonteaching faculty staff reductions through attrition and a halt on filling vacant positions, Altmann said. The other quarter of the deficit will be addressed in the following budget.

Student programs will not be affected, she said.

Administrators have not identified the number of positions that will be cut or the departments impacted.

However, a comparison of the average professional employee salary at F&M to the dollar goal budget leaders are looking to save would calculate to about 40 positions, Altmann said.

She said she and the college’s board of trustees agreed to eliminate the deficit over the next two years.

Increasing aid

F&M is a founding member of the American Talent Initiative, a national program created in part by Altmann’s predecessor Daniel Porterfield to increase enrollment of low-income students to selective colleges and universities.

However, the college has “reached an inflection point” on the aid it provides, which may increase to nearly $17 million in the coming budget, Altmann said. That figure is up more than three times the committed amount six years ago.

The annual cost to attend F&M is $70,500, which includes tuition, room and board, according to spokesman Gregory Wright. The average financial aid package awarded to a student is $50,500, he said.

More than 2,400 students are currently enrolled at the college.

In a September 2018 interview with the LNP Editorial Board, Altmann said the college made a “very bold move” when it began phasing out merit-based financial aid in favor of aid based on need.

“It was a brave and bold thing to do, and it was really putting the college’s money where its mouth was,” she said at the time.

The shift, she said, remains important to make college more accessible and affordable for students with high financial need.

The most recent four-year class received more than $56 million in financial aid, according to Altmann, who added 53 percent of this year’s freshman class received financial aid.

“The dividend (the American Talent Initiative) has paid has been tremendous,” Altmann said. “Our students are second to none.”

Altmann said she and other college leaders decided to continue the financial aid commitment.

“We want to make it something that we can sustain two years out, five years out, 10 years out,” she said.

Looking forward, Altmann hopes to “simply tighten up” expenditures in other ways.

One example is ending outdoor commencements after this year’s graduating class.

“We have a long and prosperous future. That’s not going to stop,” she said. “We just needs to be really good stewards of our money.”