- Fontbonne University, a Roman Catholic institution that borders St. Louis, plans to cut 21 degree programs and at least 18 faculty jobs, in one of the latest examples of a college pursuing consolidation to close a budget deficit.
- The university said last week it plans to phase out undergraduate degrees in fields like data science, fine art and healthcare management and graduate programs in areas like computer science. Fontbonne said it would make some courses free and waive certain costs to help students finish their studies and offer transfer options for those who could not.
- Overall, Fontbonne expects the moves will save about $2.3 million in fiscal 2025. Its budget gap has reportedly reached $5.2 million. The university said the cuts were “a critical step to eliminating the total budget deficit.”
Fontbonne has been under financial pressure for years.
Its enrollment tumbled over the last decade by more than 50%, from almost 2,100 students in fall 2012 to just 944 in fall 2022, according to federal data.
The pandemic further sank the university’s student numbers, with its first-year class in 2021 dropping by 35%, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The university has attempted to right its finances before, laying off about 10% of its workforce, or 27 employees, in 2018.
But financial stressors persisted. Fontbonne President Nancy Blattner told local press in a statement last week that the college needed to make “difficult decisions to ensure its long-term sustainability.”
“While these adjustments are regrettable,” Blattner said, “I acknowledge the dedication and contributions of the faculty and staff members impacted by these changes. I am grateful for their unwavering commitment to serving Fontbonne students.”
A Fontbonne spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Several of the faculty positions being dropped are voluntary separations, the university said. At least five, however, are tenured jobs. “Contractual obligations and program needs” will determine how long the faculty will continue to work there.
Fontbonne will also eliminate several part- and full-time staff positions, with one academic dean who will return to teaching. The university will leave several other positions unfilled, including two vacant admissions jobs.
In other austerity moves, Fontbonne will drop campus nursing services at the end of the spring 2024 term.
It’s also striking its esports — or competitive video gaming — program and scaling back resources for marketing and communications and the president’s office.