Starting 2024 with all kinds of academic cuts

In this new year of 2024, which colleges and universities are cutting academic programs and jobs?

For a month I’ve been working on this post, accumulating information about different examples, but the instances have been coming in faster than I’ve been able to note them down. And my own schedule ramped up to a fever pitch again.  Finally I’m drawing a line under stories so far, just to get this out there.  So this is not an exhaustive list.

I’ll break this down into several categories, then offer some reflections about what the examples tranche might mean for higher education’s future.

1 Closing colleges and universities

We should start by discussing the maximum cut: closing institutions.   Ohio’s Eastern Gateway Community College, for example, is suspending registration for summer and fall classes. Jamestown Business College, a New York for profit, is closing.  The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay will end in-person instruction at its Marinette campus.  Texas A&M suddenly announced it would close its Qatar Education City branch campus.

In the pipeline of potential closures: a Mississippi legislator posted a bill to shut down three of that state’s public universities.

2 Campuses cutting programs and jobs

axNow we move on to institutions which are shutting down academic programs and/or getting rid of faculty and/or staff.  (Removing tenure-track faculty is what I’ve referred to as the queen sacrifice.  It’s a chess move, where a player gives up their most powerful piece, the queen.  In the analogy tenure-track faculty are queens, given tenure’s protections and the guarantees around long-term employment, plus campus governance.  I will also note endangered personnel who aren’t tenure-track.)

Marietta College (Ohio) is cutting 22 faculty and 14 administrators.  The problem is financial.  First, “net tuition and fee revenue has declined as Marietta has invested more in financial aid and employee compensation.”  Enrollment is a factor twice over, both the total numbers and how much each student brings in:

Enrollment at the college has hovered around roughly 1,200 students for the past several years, but it dropped roughly 26% from 2012 to 2022.

Marietta brought in $15.2 million in revenue from net tuition and fees in fiscal 2022, down from $22.7 million in fiscal 2017, according to publicly available financial records. Financial aid awards grew over that time.

The University of New Hampshire is cutting 75 staff members and closing its art museum.  The given reason was enrollment declines. I would also add the state chronically underfunds public higher education, as Robin DeRosa has documented over the years.

Concordia University is cutting staff and faculty at two campuses in Wisconsin and Michigan.  One of the campuses suffered declining enrollment, but both experienced seriously increasing costs, apparently.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s regents are considering cutting several academic programs and some associated faculty members to address a budget deficit. On the block are BAs in geography, recreation management, and theater.

Albion College will lay off several people

The University of Arizona announced a series of cuts, starting with 13 open and 4 occupied staff positions (as yet unidentified).  UoA also suspended a group of non-academic programs:

The university will suspend competitive grant programs in the Provost Investment fund, which allowed faculty and staff to seek funding from the office for special projects. The university will save $1.5 million per year from this cut.
Additionally, UA leaders have suspended the Strategic Priorities Faculty Initiative to save $475,000 per year, delayed the initiation of the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program’s next cohort to save $400,000 over the next year, and has saved $300,000 per year by eliminating the eSports program.
The UA has also eliminated the fiscal year 2025 Salary Increase Program and “will reevaluate the program in future years.”
In December, UA President Robert C. Robbins told [the Arizona Board of Regents] that the university would “defer” several capital projects through the end of June.

Baldwin Wallace University will cut two dozen staff and non-tenured faculty members.

3 Cutting programs but not laying off people yet

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro will cut twenty academic programs. On the list:

BA, Anthropology
BA, Secondary Education in Geography
BS and BA, Physics
BS, Physical Education, Teacher Education (K-12)
BA, Religious Studies (will now be a concentration within the Liberal and Professional Studies Program)
Chinese minor
Russian minor
Korean language courses
Graduate Programs
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Nursing
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Advanced Practice Foundations (Nursing)
MA, Applied Geography
MFA, Drama Concentration in Directing (Concentrations in Musical Direction for Musical Theatre, Theatre for Youth, and Design will continue)
MFA, Interior Architecture
MA, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
MAT, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures in Teaching
MA, Mathematics (all concentrations)
MEd, Special Education
Dual Masters in Nursing Science and Business Administration (The stand-alone MBA and standalone MSN are not affected)
PhD, Communication Sciences and Disorders
PhD, Computational Mathematics

The University of Toledo announced it would shut down a series of majors in order to save funds:

The bachelor degree programs targeted for elimination include French, German, media communication, urban studies, exercise science, pharmacy administration, pharmacology, and toxicology.
The master degree programs to be suspended include French, Spanish, German, art education, foundations in education, exercise science, and industrial engineering. Masters in public health epidemiology, public health policy and law, and health promotion and education also will be suspended.
Doctoral degrees in foundations of education psychology, and foundations of education are on the suspension list as well.

They didn’t announce any personnel cuts.

Penn State University is considering almost $100 million in cuts.

Wright State University is closing (“deactivating”) a series of low-enrolling associates, bachelors, and masters degree granting programs.  These fall across the curriculum, from the humanities to natural and social sciences, plus education.  No sign of cutting the faculty and staff working on those programs yet.

4 Budget crises, no program or people cuts announced yet

Delta State University (Mississippi) is cutting back expenses by closing open searches, reducing administrative and salaries, and coaxing people into early retirement. (Thanks to John Schaefer for the correction)

A massive University of Connecticut deficit may lead to cuts. (source)

Lake Erie College struggles to pay one major debt. 

The University of Montana is apparently considering cuts, but I can find information outside of paywalled articles.

5 Institutions merging

Cleveland State University is talking with nearby Notre Dame College about a merger.  The former is much larger than the latter, who is suffering from declining enrollment and ballooning costs.

The University of the Redlands is working on absorbing Woodbury University.   

The Vermont College of Fine Arts isn’t merging with anyone yet, but is now up for sale

6 …and so what?

Historically when I share such accounts the responses fall into a few camps.  Outside of academia, most people shrug or sigh, applying the experience of the business world to academic institutions.  Within academia, most people get sad or angry at the situations described. Some express sympathy with people losing jobs and seeing their careers hit.  Others will take a different tack, arguing that these stories do not constitute a broader pattern, as they depend on distinct, local circumstances.

Which leads me to address the so what? question.  Why bother tracking such data and assembling the evidence?

I think that while each college or university differs in various ways, the similarities and connections are important.  External forces press across the entire sector, from the demographic transition to shifting political and cultural views of academia.  Moreover, higher education’s senior leaders learn from each other, and so strategies and tactics leap across campus boundaries.  In other words, we should expect to see more of what I’ve noted here.

I also want to take the time to track and share these stories because it seems to me that many discussions leave out the human toll of such cuts.  Cuts blight careers. They cause emotional suffering.  This should be obvious, and yet the discourse around the topic tends to the abstract, the administrative, the more broadly political.

I was reminded of this topic when I received one tweet:


What does it mean for a human being to teach through the end of a job, a department, a program, a campus?  What is it like to be a student working through an academic termination? Why don’t we give more space to these experiences?

More notes:

What I’ve called the queen sacrifice is clearly an active strategic option for at least some of American higher education.  The usual pattern is to identify academic departments with comparatively low numbers of majors or total number of students in classes, then to shrink them in various ways: reducing the range of degrees offered, folding the unit into others, removing faculty and support staff.  The humanities stand out as leading victims in such moves, but are by no means the only victims.

Mergers: note their asymmetry. Typically they involve a relatively healthy and relatively large institution obtaining a comparatively weak one.  We need a better word than merger to express this structural reality – perhaps “acquisition” is worth borrowing from the business world.

Lastly, I have a new book project to announce.  These cuts are crucial evidence for the model I hope to offer.  Watch this space.

PS: are there other accounts you’ve seen and that need attention?  I mean the top-level news but also the human stories.  Please share in comments or, if you’d like to be private, through the contact link on this site.

(thanks to Lee Skallerup-Bessette, George Station, and more friends for stories and conversation; kudos to Inside Higher Ed for staying on these stories)

Liked it? Take a second to support Bryan Alexander on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!
This entry was posted in economics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Starting 2024 with all kinds of academic cuts

  1. Elliot Pruzan says:

    You omitted Manhattan College in tje Bronx, NY, significantly reducing tenures faculty and cutting humanities programs and courses. The reason is financial mismanagement.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Belated thanks, Elliot. Adding that one to a new post now.

    • Rachel Rigolino says:

      Oh no! My son graduated from Manhattan. It has one of the best ROI numbers in the NYC region—with the reputation of being a “blue collar” (cough, cough, look at its tuition) conduit to jobs in ConEd, NYSDOT, and private firms.

  2. Scott Robison says:

    Not breaking in 2024, but still a relevant story to follow:
    We’re probably past the canary in the coal mine point, but Gee’s words may be realized by more institutions this year: “You’re either going to change now, or you’re going to be irrelevant.”

  3. John Schaefer says:

    Delta State is in Mississippi, not Ohio

  4. Great article, Bryan, and thank you for humanizing this important situation. I’ve read your other posts on this and felt somewhat separated from the issue because it hadn’t happened to any higher education institution that I had been a part of, until now. In November the University of Nebraska at Kearny announced plans to eliminate eight programs and let go of 24 teaching positions ( This on top of other news of many state governments eliminating the need to have a college education makes me worry about the cognitive level of our future generations. Yes, of course, one can learn a develop outside of attending a university, but a good liberal education provides students to humanities as well as hard sciences to better develop student overall understanding of the world as well as to help develop their critical thinking. My mission now is also the help higher education integrate AI Literacy skills into the development of faculty and students in that we all need these skills to be successful in our new modern world. – Please continue to keep us informed on these important developments and we all look forward to your new book project.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      I’m worried about this as well, Brent, although I’m glad you’ve been spared thus far.

      I’m working on a game simulating the future of higher ed. One feature will be tracking (very abstractly) how much teaching an institution gets done.

  5. Crystal LHote says:

    Thank you for seeking solutions and recognizing the seriousness of the toll(s), Brian. If institutions tenured some faculty at the institution level rather than at the program level, do you think we would see more program flexibility -and- institutional stability?

  6. sibyledu says:

    I have often been one of those “so what?” grumps. 10-12 colleges close every year, and have done so for two generations. I certainly don’t think it’s wrong to document these events. But if there is an overall pattern, it hasn’t revealed itself to my eyes. I look forward to seeing how you make sense of it in your upcoming book.

    In the meantime, my hypothesis is that these cuts and closures are not the problem per se, but rather a side effect of the long-term decline in public support for higher education and the post-Cold War shift in the public purpose for sponsoring higher education in the US: formerly a way to fight the Soviet Union, higher ed is now mostly a workforce development tool. And the ways that the workforce values skills tends to disincentivize exploratory studies: if you can’t answer the question “how will you make money by studying that?”, you won’t study it.

    We’ve all been reading about enrollment declines and appropriations declines for years; it would be even more surprising if there were no cuts. Perhaps more tellingly, these cuts (especially in humanities fields) are not leading a decline in enrollment but following it. If there were still hundreds of thousands of students studying Chinese or German, we wouldn’t see cuts in those fields. There is still more than enough capacity to educate the tens of thousands who still seek Chinese and German language, though not at every institution.

    Certainly, closing programs and canceling lines is painful for those who suffer. I have the luxury of thinking of that problem in the abstract, much as I think about war in Ukraine or famine in Mali or child poverty in the US or political repression in China in the abstract. I am grateful for and supportive of those who tend that real suffering. Personally, though, I do not have the capacity to heal the injured and also struggle with ending the problem. I’m concerned about the problem on a macro, abstract scale. How do we restore support for higher education, and help our students to thrive?

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      sibyledu, I appreciate the pushback.

      I agree on the “long-term decline in public support for higher education.” That’s something I’ve been tracking carefully and it seems likely to continue for a while. And I agree on your humanities point: “If there were still hundreds of thousands of students studying Chinese or German, we wouldn’t see cuts in those fields.” (The lack of Chinese astonishes me, given “Cold War 2.o”)

      I would add one bit of context, which is that America decided to massively expand access to higher ed from the 1970s. We did all kinds of things *and they worked*, as the # of institutions and especially enrolled students grew and grew. “College for all” was the mantra.

      That stopped dead around 2012. The # of schools and, more significantly, the # of enrolled students have ticked or fallen down for a decade – while the American population grew, so we’re backsliding in absolute terms and especially relative ones,.

      This is where I come back to your point about declining support. I think the cultural consensus around “college for all” has broken up. What it means is bad news for our society and also for our generally privatized colleges and universities,.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *