Higher education across the country is undergoing sweeping change. Even Harvard University with an endowment of $32.7 billion and a $4.2 billion yearly budget is facing a $34 million deficit. And their recent statement is one that echoes in universities around the country, “we can no longer live in a world where things continue simply to be additive….it’s just not a sustainable model.” The entire higher education industry is examining their business models. Here at Bethel we are doing just that in order to maximize our resources, create new, flexible, sustainable, compelling programs that will attract students and keep a Bethel University education accessible for students today and into the future.
Over the summer, administrators, faculty, and staff worked together on a Prioritization and Review process designed to evaluate programs, departments, and university functions to determine what services are essential to the university’s mission and how they can be done most effectively and efficiently.
What academic decisions were made as a part of Prioritization and Review?
For the College of Arts & Sciences, the following majors will no longer be available to new students after this academic year: applied performance: composition, applied performance: vocal, sacred music, music education, French education, middle level education with an endorsement in French, and science education majors (life science, chemistry, and physics). Minors and tracks include: French minor, the anthropology track within sociocultural studies, the holistic development track within sociocultural studies, and the technical design emphasis in theatre. Other changes included eliminating German courses and the Antioch Way program.
For the College of Adult & Professional Studies and Graduate School, the following programs were eliminated: B.A. Human Resource Management, B.A. Healthcare Leadership, M.A. Communication, M.A. Literacy, and a certificate in post-secondary teaching.
At Bethel Seminary, the President’s Cabinet made the decision to close all sites where Bethel Seminary of the East classes are now offered, starting next fall.
What happens to the students in these programs? Can they finish their degrees?
All students currently in these programs will be able to complete their degree in their major. Faculty advisors will work with students to accommodate their needs as they move toward completing their graduation requirements. For Bethel Seminary of the East, we have developed a teach-out plan that is in review with our accreditors. It will allow students to finish their degrees online and in person at Bethel Seminary St. Paul, and, if students wish, by taking courses with partner schools located near our two East Coast sites, after face-to-face classes end on the East Coast.
How were these decisions made?
The criteria for the prioritization process with academic programs included: (1) Contribution to the unique mission and/or focus of the school, (2) Enrollment trends over the past 10 years, (3) Number of graduates as a percentage of the whole in the school and number of student credit hours produced (CAS) or number of student credit hours sold (CAPS/GS and seminary), (4) Cost and/or margin, (5) Internal impact, (6) Use of assessment data for program improvement, and (7) Unique or distinctive contribution to the university.
How many faculty positions were eliminated?
A total of 14 full-time faculty positions throughout the university did not have their contracts renewed for next year but will complete the 2013-14 school year. Four of these positions were tenured. Positions were eliminated in all schools of the university. Of the total full-time positions at the university, approximately 24% of the total number of Bethel Seminary faculty positions were eliminated, 6% of the College of Adult & Professional Studies and Graduate School, and 4% of the College of Arts & Sciences. The decision to eliminate faculty positions is a very difficult one, for the individual faculty members and their families as well as the Bethel community. We grieve the impact of these decisions have on our colleagues and our community.
Generally, we do not release the names of people whose positions are eliminated. While for some people full transparency would be ideal, we also want to respect the privacy of those people who have been impacted and allow them to share this information as they would prefer.
Were any staff members also affected?
Yes, staff positions were eliminated as well. The Prioritization and Review process looked at all offices and departments at the university, both in academic and administrative areas.
How did you decide what faculty positions to eliminate?
The eliminated faculty positions were in programs or areas with low enrollments.
What is the university doing to attract new students?
We have identified a number of initiatives to attract new students. At the Graduate School, we have recently added two new health sciences programs, physician assistant and nurse-midwifery, and we received a grant from Allina Health for start-up costs associated with the nurse-midwifery program. We know that excellence attracts students. The three National Science Foundation grants our physics professors recently received demonstrate the excellence in our science programs, and that will bring students.
Great facilities are important in attracting students. We are blessed to have a beautiful campus with amazing space in the Community Life Center, the Brushaber Commons and the Monson Dining Center. We will also continue to move forward on construction of a new Health and Wellness Center. This center will house a convenient, state-of-the-art fitness center paid for entirely by investors. We have raised more than half of the money necessary for phase one of the building.
Is my donation being stewarded well?
Those who invest in Bethel University should feel reassured that their donations are being stewarded well because of projects like Prioritization and Review. To ensure the university’s financial stability well into the future, we took a hard look at all of our academic programs and administrative functions to improve the flexibility of the university and to maximize the use of our resources while best serving our students and fulfilling the university’s mission. That means that investors can have even more confidence in the fact that the dollars they donate to Bethel University today are going to educate future Christian men and women leaders.
Is Bethel University in danger of closing?
No, Bethel University is financially sound. We have been around since 1871, and we believe we are just getting started. By God’s grace we will continue to be here for many generations to come to educate and energize men and women for leadership, scholarship, and service.