BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL
The University of Scranton cut staff and budgets because of rising costs.
In a letter sent to school faculty, staff and students on Wednesday, university President the Rev. Kevin P. Quinn, S.J., outlined some of the “difficult, even painful, decisions” school officials made, and stressed the necessity of taking a long-term strategic look at the budget.
Along with cutting $4 million in divisional budgets and using contingency funds to balance the spending plan, positions have been eliminated. Some positions were unfilled or reduced through attrition, but some employees learned Tuesday and Wednesday that their jobs were being cut. The employees will receive a “separation package” and have access to career and transition counseling. University officials on Wednesday refused to disclose to The Times-Tribune the number of employees affected.
“I am grateful to these individuals for their service and ask that we all support them and one another as we move forward,” the Rev. Quinn wrote.
While the university is facing the pressures of increased operational costs and a smaller than expected freshman class that entered last fall, which reduces tuition revenue, officials knew families could not afford a large tuition increase, said Edward Steinmetz, senior vice president for finance and administration.
Higher education institutions nationwide are struggling with rising costs and student affordability. University tuition for 2014-15 has been increased by 3 percent — the lowest percentage since the 1970s. Tuition for 2014-15 will be $39,556, and with room and board options averaging about $13,000, the total cost for students can be about $52,500 or more for next year. At the same time, the university’s financial aid budget will increase by 5.6 percent and now represents 28 percent of the university’s total $213 million budget.
“As a result, we will see a decrease in net tuition and fee revenue per student for the class we recruit for this fall when compared to the class that preceded it,” the Rev. Quinn wrote.
While some positions were cut, some funding was redirected to new positions, such as faculty and staff positions to support the new, under-construction center for rehabilitation education and new staff to support student internship and career preparation and placement.
The university will continue a strategic financial review process and “must react to the changing landscape in higher education while continuing to strengthen the university’s financial position,” the Rev Quinn wrote. “Despite these pressures and challenges, I remain confident that our efforts and our ever-present ingenuity will allow the University of Scranton to continue to thrive as we live out our mission to provide a transformative education that is engaged, integrated and global.”