Henderson State Plan Calls for Elimination of 25 Degree Programs

Henderson State Plan Calls for Elimination of 25 Degree Programs
The Henderson State University campus in Arkadelphia. The school has announced deep employment and academic cuts as it addresses a financial crisis. (Henderson State University)

Henderson State University Chancellor Chuck Ambrose on Monday released a proposed exigency plan that calls for the elimination of about 25 degree programs and 88 teaching positions.

Bachelor's degree programs in history, political science, biology, math and communications are among those recommended to be phased out as the four-year university in Arkadelphia seeks to address its financial troubles. The proposed job cuts would reduce the school's instructional staff by 37%.

Ambrose said in February that the university faced a projected shortfall of $12.5 million this fiscal year, an amount that could leave it unable to service debts, pay bills and pay employees. The school's long-term debt had grown from $14 million to $78 million, requiring annual payments of $6.9 million

Under the exigency plan, the university would save about $5.34 million in academic salaries through fiscal 2024. It has already saved $1.8 million by cutting non-teaching positions and restructuring administrative positions. 

The exigency plan will be presented to the Arkansas State University System's board of trustees at a special meeting Thursday. 

"We cannot grow our way out of this challenge without implementing significant academic restructuring through the financial exigency process," Ambrose said in a letter to university stakeholders. "As margins between net tuition and instructional costs widen, our only choice is to re-engineer ourselves to offer the academic degree programs that best fit student and community workforce needs."

Ambrose said students enrolled in programs that are discontinued, or "teach-out" programs, "will be supported to complete degrees" in those programs.

"We will work individually with students in teach-out degree programs to ensure that we provide the classes needed for students to graduate," he wrote.

Remaining academic degree programs would be organized into four meta-majors: health, education, and social sustainability; applied professional science and technology; business innovation and entrepreneurship; and arts and humanities.

Forty-four tenured faculty members would lose their jobs under the proposed cuts. The cuts include 21 vacant faculty positions. 

"I’m deeply saddened for these faculty members and understand how difficult this process will be," Ambrose said. "We did not take these decisions lightly, and it is impossible to minimize the impact this has on members of our community. Henderson is a tight-knit family and community, so we understand this is difficult. We will do everything possible to help these individuals during their transitioning."

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