Southwestern College President Brad Andrews has announced recent adjustments to the college’s operations. Andrews shared that the adjustments are necessary in order for the college to reach a balanced budget and to achieve the financial latitude for future investment in the college.
“We are in the middle of a twenty-year chapter
of Southwestern College’s story,” said Andrews. “A chapter that began with the
recession in 2008, since then the landscape for institutions of higher
education has been shifting dramatically.”
Andrews explained that colleges and universities across the country have been coming to terms with a new and extended period of contraction for the higher education sector.
“At Southwestern, we are facing these external challenges head-on and we’re making the changes necessary to strengthen our position and secure our place for another 135 years,” said Andrews.
The Southwestern Board of Trustees, at their October board meeting, approved a proposed plan to balance the college’s operational budget by next year, towards a surplus budget by 2021. The enacted plan includes budget reductions and efficiencies, and a reorganization of administrative and staff responsibilities. While an effort to reduce staff and administrative positions began several years ago, Andrews announced Friday in meetings with faculty and staff that the college will open next fall with thirteen fewer staff and administrative positions. Seven of the positions eliminated, are currently unfilled and will be left open. The remaining six positions will be eliminated through the non-renewal of existing contracts.
“These are extremely difficult decisions and they have real implications for our community and for people who we care about,” said Andrews. “We felt it important to let the individuals who currently fill those positions know as soon as possible, and we will honor the contracts of those who are impacted through June 30, 2020.”
In total, the college has reduced administration and staff positions by 13% since July 2015.
“We are doing the difficult and necessary work to face the external pressures that every college is encountering right now,” said board chair and alumnus Kim Moore. “We have made remarkable progress to grow enrollment and cut expenditures over the past four years and the trustees are proud of that progress. The Board and administration are committed to achieving regular balanced budgets, to get to a place where we have the capacity to regularly increase our investment in the future of the college – we can’t be successful at that if we’re not living within our means today.”
In the past four years, Southwestern has experienced a 31% growth in enrollment. The college’s main campus enrollment of 612 full-time students is a modern record.
Rick Cowlishaw, professor of biology and current faculty chair said, “Great things continue to happen in our classrooms. No matter the challenges we face in any particular year, we continue to have excellent faculty creating unique learning experiences for our students in our classrooms, labs, and beyond. On campus and in Winfield, we benefit from a wonderfully strong and supportive community that contributes in making Southwestern an amazing place to be.”
Even as the college works to realize savings, it continues to find ways to invest in the student experience. In the past two years, Southwestern has added student success coaches and this year, with philanthropic support, opened a Career Center with a dedicated career counselor. Additionally, the college opened a new learning lab space in Beech Science Center this fall.
The college’s first-to-second-year retention has improved to
tie a 15-year high.
“The resilience and dedication of faculty and
staff, the quality of the student experience at Southwestern, our love for our
students – these fundamentals are unwavering. This is the inspiring and
enduring story of Southwestern College,” said Andrews.