- Park University, a private nonprofit college primarily based in Missouri, plans to eliminate 16 faculty jobs and several of its academic programs to balance its budget.
- The university will phase out three master’s programs, including a social work degree, as well as three bachelor’s degree concentrations, two certificates, and seven minors, spokesperson Brad Biles said in an email Monday.
- It will offer the affected master’s and certificate programs through summer 2025, while the other degrees will continue through summer 2027, Biles said. Also out of austerity, the university will close 15 of its U.S. campuses, leaving it with 24 across the country.
Cuts at public and private colleges alike have become increasingly common as industry headwinds and stagnating enrollment stresses budgets.
Colleges seeking cutbacks include public institutions like West Virginia University and Dickinson State University, in North Dakota, as well as privates such as Bradley University, in Illinois, and now Park.
Park University, which in fall 2023 enrolled more than 6,630 students, has experienced steady headcount declines since 2020. It had 10,084 students that fall, according to state regulators.
University officials blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for college enrollment falling nationwide. Institutions are also contending with demographic changes that are shrinking the pool of traditional-age college students, inspiring more competition, Biles said in his email.
“Park University acknowledges this reality,” Biles said.
To remedy its budget woes, the university is dropping faculty who teach in low-enrollment programs or whose departure “would not affect program quality,” he said. Biles declined to share the amount of the university’s budget deficit.
Most faculty will continue to teach at Park through summer 2024, Biles said. The university employed more than 780 faculty members in fall 2022, according to the most recently available federal data.
However, while it is ending some faculty contracts, it’s continuing to hire new faculty to teach “in high-growth programs such as cybersecurity, and information systems and business analytics,” Biles said. The university will be bringing on three faculty members to teach in those areas over a year, he said.
The university is not yet publicly identifying which campuses it’s shutting down, as it’s still informing students based in those areas. Since the start of the pandemic, Park has offered little to no face-to-face instruction at the campuses it is shuttering, he said.
“Park University’s history has been punctuated by resilience in response to challenges,” Biles said. “Park will rise to the occasion and develop innovative solutions to fulfill its mission of transforming lives through accessible, student-centered, quality higher education.”