INDIANA, Pa. (KDKA) – Indiana University of Pennsylvania will close five fine arts programs as it works to restructure in the face of ten years of declining enrollment.
The university says it’s up against a projected $16 million budget shortfall. When the cuts were announced, students and staff protested on campus. On Thursday, concerned students protested for the third time this week.
Michelle Freyling, an IUP spokesperson, told KDKA that the university is experiencing a major budget crisis and is undergoing what university leaders describe as an academic restructuring. The cuts could result in the elimination of nearly 130 jobs.
IUP is planning on merging its fine arts and humanities schools and slashing arts programs, prompting massive cuts to faculty and staff.
“If we don’t do something now, we won’t have a future to change lives,” said Freyling.
Freyling said the university is experiencing a steep decline in enrollment, which has dropped 33 percent over the past seven years.
“At our very highest, we were at about over 15,000. Now we’re just over 10,000,” said Freyling.
The coronavirus pandemic is packing an even heavier punch. It is knocking out opportunities for recruiting, according to Freyling. Decreased enrollment has dropped the university, which relies heavily on tuition revenue, into a projected $16 million budget hole this year alone.
“What we cannot do is continue to pass on our budget challenges to our students and families. That’s a line in the sand we have made,” said Freyling.
Instead, IUP is cutting many of its arts programs and slashing jobs. More than 100 faculty members and 80 staffers will be let go. They will learn their fate by letter on Friday.
“They’re trimming the fat with custodians. They’re trimming the fat with administrative assistants. Where are the cuts to management?” said Erika Frenzel, the president of the Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculties at IUP.
Frenzle expressed her fear for the future, saying: “IUP used to be my second home. I’m not so sure it is anymore.”
These changes will begin next fall. The teachers union will continue negotiations with university leaders for another alternative.