- “The Faculty Senate censured the whole administration in September.”
- “In March, it took a no confidence vote in two senior administrators, including a former interim president who remains at the university as a vice president.”
- “In April, senators passed a resolution urging university to cut its ties with its current board chairman once his term expires this summer.”
- “[In May], the business school faculty voted no confidence in the president, the Rev. C. Kevin Gillespie, and the Senate Executive Committee warned the incoming board chairman the whole Senate was prepared to do the same.”
- “An external review of St. Joseph’s this spring by a team from the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, the university’s accreditor, concluded, ‘These Faculty Senate actions are disturbing and crucial developments, pointing to a deep crisis in the governance process.’ The visiting team said the board had "overstepped" its role in setting some policies, including enrollment goals, and that the all-around climate has contributed to low morale among professors.”
- “Professors are so distrustful of the budget and enrollment projections and everyone who prepared them that when faculty member tabled a no confidence vote in their president recently, it wasn't because they backed the president, but feared that if he were weakened, another senior official in whom they've voted no confidence would come to power.”
Things are pretty dicey in Hawksvillle. But, to cut to the quick, this is all about $$$ and the need for more $$$.
SJU spokesman Joseph Lunardi perhaps characterized the situation best, stating: “It feels to some like it’s been made personal when it’s pretty numerical.” To wit:
- SJU’s operating margins have shrunk from ~8% before 2008 to ~3% recently.
- In 2004, SJU’s bond debt was $70M; in 2014-2015, it will be ~$219M. That’s almost a 300% increase.
The administration’s plan to deal with the financial challenges includes:
- Cutting the retirement contribution and match from 11% to 10%.
- Implementing a high-deductible health insurance plan.
- Cut department budgets across the board.
- Decrease the number of adjunct professors.
- Increase class sizes by 2 students/section.
- Increase tuition, room, and board.
All of this is to be expected. It’s pretty unimaginative.
What is imaginative—and perhaps perilous—is SJU’s plan to grow enrollment. As a tuition-driven institution, ~90% of SJU’s revenue comes from tuition which will be $40,420 for 2014-2015. But:
- Applicants will no longer be required to take the ACT or SAT.
- Financial aid will be increased. In 2004, the average tuition discount was 26%; 2014, it was ~41%. In 2011, scholarships amounted to $60M; for 2014-2015, they will amount to $86M or about 1/3 of SJU’s operating budget (~$240M).
So, with the average tuition discount for the 2014-2015 academic year being ~45%, students who want to pay for the privilege of being a “Hawk” will actually pay $22.2k+ (or ~$90k for 4 years).
Now, who will be doing that?
That’s the "creative thinking" part: Administrators likely believe that by dropping the ACT/SAT requirement, the SJU applicant pool will grow. But, more importantly, that pool of potentially lower-qualified applicants will be comprised of individuals who will qualify for and take out federal loans, providing SJU the much-needed cash flow that will keep the institution afloat financially. Don’t forget: SJU’s debtors want their money back in the agreed upon and timely fashion originally contracted. Defaulting on those obligations could lead to SJU having to declare Chapter 11.
Complain all they want, SJU faculty have to deal with the fact that SJU is deeply in debt. The decreases in enrollment—and, hence, tuition revenue—have the potential to deal a mortal wound to all Hawks, including the faculty.
Absolutely none of this is surprising. It is part of a national trend for at least several years. The college “tuition bubble” is showing signs of being stretched to, if not beyond its limits. As the senior fellow at Eduventures, Ken Hartman observed in the Inside Higher Ed article:
[Father] Gillespie happens to be in the watchtower so he’s the
messenger, but you can shoot the messenger–but that doesn’t
mean the message is going away.
If they haven't already, administrators at other high-profile Catholic universities and colleges had better take note!
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Inside Higher Ed article, click on the following link: