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Amid budget concerns, Elmhurst College plans staff cuts, offers voluntary retirement

Elmhurst College is making faculty and staff reductions, closing the college's child care center and cancelling midyear commencement to address a budget deficit.
Elmhurst College is making faculty and staff reductions, closing the college's child care center and cancelling midyear commencement to address a budget deficit.

ELMHURST – In response to a budget deficit of about $2.5 million, Elmhurst College is looking to cut an estimated $7.7 million from its budgets in fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

The cuts will come from faculty and staff reductions, the closing of the college's child care center and the cancellation of midyear commencement.

"It's part of a rethinking of programs that used to be more central to our mission but have become less so," said Desiree Chen, Elmhurst College's managing director of public affairs.

Although revenue from student tuition has remained stable at the college, operational costs, salaries and inflation have grown, Chen said. These announced reductions have been part of an ongoing discussion to eliminate the college's deficit and right-size the institution.

Part of the budget reduction process included gathering suggestions and input from the college’s department heads, faculty, administrators and staff. Recommendations were made to the Board of Trustees, and the board decided which measures to implement, she said.

In the past, Elmhurst College has used unrestricted funds in its endowment to address budget deficits. However, that is not a long-term solution, and the college has decided not to rely too heavily on that option, Chen said.

Six faculty positions have been cut, with the reductions focused on non-tenure, lecture or visiting professor spots.

A voluntary retirement program is being offered to employees whose age plus the number of years they've worked at the college equals 70 or more. Those eligible may apply for retirement by mid-March, and their applications have to be approved by the college to avoid unduly burdening any department, Chen said.

Faculty learned of the retirement offer in December, and full-time administrators and staff learned about it in mid-January, she said.

Most cuts will come from non-academic areas, focusing instead on support staff, Chen said. The college also will be looking to reduce spending related to marketing and its business affairs.

No programs, courses or extracurriculars are being cut, she said.

"The whole point of this is to avoid impacting students in a negative way or avoid passing on additional costs to them," Chen said.

In that vein, when the Board of Trustees discusses the 2015-16 tuition rate in March, the goal will be to hold any tuition increase to a minimum, she said.

Many students at Elmhurst College come from middle-class families, and the college wants to continue to be accessible to them, Chen said.

"Going forward, our planning has to reflect that," she said.

The closing of the child care center stems from a lack of use by the student body.

It originally started as a service for adult students, but now, most of its clients come from the outside community, Chen said.

A survey revealed a lack of student interest in midyear commencement as well, she said. Each year, the event has been shrinking.

The child care center will close at the end of this academic year, and the midyear commencement recently held by the college will be its last. Annual savings from these cuts are expected to total between $150,000 and $200,000, Chen said.

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