Another college readies a queen sacrifice

Another American campus has decided to cut faculty and possibly programs.  This time it’s on the west coast, but the queen sacrifice pattern is quite clear.

Mill College via Wikipedia Mills College officially announced it was “restructuring“.  That includes a “Financial Stabilization Plan (FSP) that will require a reduction in force (RIF) of staff and faculty.”

How many people?  Inside Higher Ed reports:

The college expects layoffs to hit 30-35 faculty and staff members. President Elizabeth L. Hillman said it was likely that tenured faculty members would be in that group… The college’s faculty and staff FTE is 353.

So roughly 10% of the full-time population.  As for departments and programs, it’s unclear which cuts will occur, if any.  The official statement refers to “retain[ing] the distinctive Mills experience while transforming our programs to be more attractive, affordable, and accessible”; “transforming” covers a lot of possibilities.

What’s driving these cuts?  My readers know the answer: enrollment and financial pressures.  Back to IHE:

In recent years, applications and enrollments have dropped from prior levels. Consider these numbers from the college’s Common Data Set:

  • In 2013-14, the college had 1,827 applicants, admitted 1,242 and enrolled 217 first-year students.

  • In 2015-16, the college had 839 applications, admitted 639 and enrolled 139 first-year students.

Why is enrollment down?  Mills is in a major and growing urban area, in a very populous and wealthy (if very unequal) state, California.  It may be that the liberal arts education is truly becoming less popular.  It might be because single-sex (well, no men; transwomen are allowed) education is less appealing than it once was.

An interesting detail: Mills declared financial emergency, not financial exigency.  The latter gives them more room to lay off faculty without being sued.  The former, not so much.

Mills is also developing partnerships with local academic institutions.  From the official statement: “Strategic alliances with other institutions, including UC Berkeley and the Peralta colleges, are underway to boost enrollment and enhance opportunities for Mills students.”  That makes sense for the short term. In the medium term these could also be venues for possible mergers, or destinations for students if Mills closes.

One unusual aspect for a queen sacrifice is Mills’ political turn.  The new plan includes support for “[g]ender and racial justice through academic programs and community engagement.”  Let’s see how that plays out in terms of attracted or repelling students.

As I’ve said previously, unless the underlying pressures change – demographics and economics in particular – we will see more of these queen sacrifices.

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2 Responses to Another college readies a queen sacrifice

  1. Hi Bryan

    Is this correct? “An interesting detail: Mills declared financial emergency, not financial exigency. The latter gives them more room to lay off faculty without being sued. The former, not so much.”

    ​

    Peace & Resistance

    Mark Corbett Wilson

    “In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” ~ Eric Hoffer

    On Sat, May 20, 2017 at 7:16 AM, Bryan Alexander wrote:

    > Bryan Alexander posted: “Another American campus has decided to cut > faculty and possibly programs. This time it’s on the west coast, but the > queen sacrifice pattern is quite clear. Mills College officially announced > it was “restructuring”. That includes a “Financial Stabili” >

    Like

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