Wright State making academic changes to preserve the delivery of affordable, high-quality public education

In its continuing efforts to preserve its ability to offer an affordable, high-quality public education to the Dayton region, Wright State University today announced that it will commence the process for anticipated bargaining unit faculty workforce reductions.

In doing so, Wright State is complying with obligations specifically described in the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and is following the process that was developed and agreed upon with the AAUP-WSU. Article 17 of the CBA acknowledges that faculty workforce reductions may be necessary as a result of a significant reduction in enrollment over at least four semesters that is expected to persist. This fall, the university reported to the Ohio Department of Higher Education an enrollment of just over 12,000. The university’s overall enrollment has declined by more than 30% over the last five years.

Notice was sent to the AAUP-WSU executive committee and the Faculty Senate today.

Similar to other universities enacting faculty workforce reductions, Wright State has navigated dramatic changes within higher education while also managing the impacts of the unprecedented COVID-19 public health emergency.

“Certainly, this is not an easy decision for the university, and I assure everyone it is a decision we do not undertake lightly,” said Wright State University President Sue Edwards. “The university has, for many months, been actively considering in good faith whether the need for faculty workforce reductions could be alleviated through normal attrition or other alternatives, as the CBA instructs — for example, the two previous voluntary retirement incentive packages the university offered in recent years — but the continued enrollment declines require us to act further.”

The university’s decision to invoke the agreed-upon process for bargaining unit faculty workforce reductions is its latest effort to implement initiatives aimed at preserving the university’s ability to continue fulfilling its educational mission and serving its students. Previous initiatives have included steep budget realignments, new operational expense controls, alignment of limited resources to critical needs, non-bargaining-unit workforce reductions, and the elimination and attrition of numerous administrative positions.

“Wright State University is an absolutely essential resource to the Dayton region. Our graduates remain here and contribute to the success of the businesses, organizations, and communities where they work and live,” said Edwards. “These initiatives are all seated in assuring we remain viable and continue to be that much-needed resource.”

Faculty affected by the workforce reduction will receive up to 18 months of notice along with workforce displacement support the university has previously provided to other employees whose positions have been impacted by workforce reductions.

It is important to highlight that no students enrolled in their current major will lose the opportunity to complete their degrees as a result of these reductions.

Among dozens of four-year universities and colleges in Ohio, Wright State’s in-state undergraduate tuition remains among the top five most affordable in the state.

The workforce reductions are one component of a broad university effort to balance teaching and programmatic resources with current and expected demand. The result of this strategic effort is to enable Wright State University to continue providing the affordable, high-quality education it has become known for to a smaller, recurring enrollment of approximately 10,000 students.

For example, in June, for the first time ever, the Wright State Board of Trustees received and reviewed a three-year financial plan aligning university operating expenses with projected future enrollment. The Board of Trustees approved a Fiscal Year 2021 budget with expected revenues of $210 million.

Also, the university continues to engage with its colleges, faculty, and staff in a multiyear academic program review. This effort seeks to strategically enhance program offerings, collaborative research, and teaching as the university repositions itself to meet the region’s current and anticipated future needs.

One initiative that has resulted from examining the priorities of the region is the establishment of a single college involving the consolidation of three units — the College of Nursing and Health, the College of Education and Human Services, and the School of Professional Psychology — to meet the high demand in holistic health and education. This reorganization results in fewer units, thus enabling the university to play on its strengths, reduce its administrative burden, maximize its instructional resources, and continue to serve its students and surrounding communities.

A separate proposal, for a more extensive academic reorganization process, also started over the summer, and university-wide efforts are continuing to investigate additional college consolidations and academic realignments within the remaining colleges. The goal is to ensure that Wright State University remains a force in the region and is ready to meet the ever-changing needs of the students and stakeholders of the Miami Valley and beyond.

Per the process outlined in the CBA, a joint committee is being formed to provide recommendations around the reductions. Commensurately, the interim provost, Douglas Leaman, will be working with the college deans on the development of a plan that supports the future direction of the university. That plan will identify the affected departments and the total number of faculty positions to be reduced. The recommendations and plans are expected to conclude in early February and will be presented to President Sue Edwards for consideration and then to the Board of Trustees.

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