Wheaton College announced today a reduction of approximately 10% of the academic division, which includes faculty and academic staff, over the next three years to avoid a projected financial deficit, according to a series of emails sent to students, faculty, staff and parents this afternoon. A town hall meeting is scheduled for Friday Nov. 18 at 3 p.m., where the administration will discuss final decisions and answer questions from faculty and staff.
The reduction accompanies departmental restructuring, including the transitioning of the Chinese, German and classical languages majors into minors, certificates, or concentrations starting next year. All students currently enrolled in these majors will be able to take the credits needed to complete them.
Ten faculty members, about 5% of the college’s 213 tenured, tenure-track faculty and permanent lecturers, were notified that their positions would end in June 2024 or June 2025. None of the ten are tenured faculty. The emails also acknowledged that some visiting faculty positions will not be renewed for the next academic year, but no specifics were given. Additionally, per the emails, ten academic staff out of 210 were informed that their positions would be reduced in hours or eliminated completely.
The changes come after months of deliberation from the Academic Reprioritization Committee (ARC) and Graduate Reprioritization Committee (GRC), which are made up of faculty members and academic administration staff. ARC and GRC made recommendations to Provost Karen Lee in October, which were then approved by President Philip Ryken. Adjustments to the operating budget in non-academic divisions will be announced after the Board of Trustees’ budget meeting in February.
Financial concerns triggered by a post-COVID enrollment deficit are the main cause of the academic restructuring. With 504 first-year students, this year’s freshman class is smaller than last year’s 586, and significantly below the pre-pandemic average of over 600. According to the email sent to faculty and staff, the college predicted a 10% deficit in the overall operating budget by the 2027-28 academic year unless significant reductions were made.
These are the first significant budget cuts since 2021, when 7% of college non-student employees were reduced in an effort to recoup COVID-19 financial shortfall. Other colleges and universities are grappling with similar financial woes in the pandemic’s aftermath.
Despite the downsizing, the emails expressed a commitment to maintain recently added programs as a means of attracting more students. The Wheaton College Summer Institute, the expansion of Passage and Orientation, a new engineering degree and additional Aequitas initiatives, among other projects, will continue as planned.
The email to faculty also noted plans to increase salaries for faculty and staff. This announcement comes after faculty members expressed significant concern over pay raises last semester amid record-breaking inflation.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the previous implication that the college had declared financial exigency, and to clarify that the ten involuntary faculty separations were not tenured faculty.