Ashland University lays off 23 faculty, says it is now on track for 'bright future'

President calls it 'a needed reprioritization' for long-term stability

Ashland University laid off 23 instructors—including 14 tenured and three tenure-track professors—and eliminated nine teaching positions as part of an academic restructuring, Kellie Woodhouse reports for Inside Higher Ed.

The institution has gone through financial difficulties in recent years, but enrollment is trending upward and the university reported a nearly $3 million surplus in fiscal 2014.

The American Association of University Professors guidelines direct schools to avoid laying off tenured faculty unless a "financial exigency" threatens the institution's future. No such emergency had been declared at Ashland, but the university's policies permit it if an academic unit is being restructured.

"We are describing it as a needed reprioritization for the institution's long-term thriving," says President Carlos Campo.

Administrators examined student demand and faculty member productivity to determine which positions to eliminate, Campo says. The institution plans to have a 14.2 to one student-to-faculty ratio.

The cuts affect various programs, including business management, computer science, communications, and music.

Faculty members have not received raises in five years and benefits were reduced. In December 2014, Moody's gave the university a junk rating for its then-nearly $70 million in debt, missed 2014 enrollment target, and variable operating performance. The agency no longer rates the school.

The layoffs are expected to save $2.6 million per year. Those funds will go toward deferred maintenance and the creation of an adult and online college. Additionally, the university will now be able to offer raises to faculty, even with the 37% tuition cut implanted last year.

"It's clearly strengthening our institution from a financial perspective as we shift those dollars from academic programs," Campo says. "It was a long, involved process. A difficult one for everyone involved, and now what we're trying to do as an institution is really focus on that bright future" (Woodhouse, Inside Higher Ed, 8/17).

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