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.
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.