Ohio Wesleyan University is cutting $10 million in expenses to address changes in the higher education landscape, secure its long-term future, and ensure its ability to provide students with an exceptional and affordable residential liberal arts education.
“Even before the pandemic, we knew we had to reimagine and redesign how we do our work to fulfill Ohio Wesleyan’s mission and successfully educate students now and into the future,” said President Rock Jones, Ph.D. “We knew the position we were in, with a shrinking population of prospective students, increasing competition, and families less able to afford the rising cost of higher education.”
Calling the actions the “most difficult day” in his 12 years leading Ohio Wesleyan, Jones announced the cuts Monday. All were approved unanimously by the university’s Board of Trustees. The changes, effective immediately, include the following:
• Reducing the size of the non-teaching staff by 44 positions, including 14 vacant positions. “The decision to eliminate each position was made solely on the basis of the duties associated with it,” Jones said. “None had anything to do with the people in those positions or their performance. … All will receive severance packages and access to career assistance and employment services.”
• Eliminating 1.5% matching contributions to employee retirement accounts and decreasing regular contributions from 10% to 8.7%, the national average in higher education. Additional account contributions that some faculty received also were eliminated.
• Discontinuing supplemental funding for the university-owned Early Childhood Center, Perkins Observatory, and Richard M. Ross Art Museum, requiring all to create self-sustaining budgets.
• Offering an early retirement program for faculty.
• Eliminating the varsity rowing program and reducing other expenses in the athletics program.
• Returning to a fee-based Student Health Center with insurance billings. The university will continue to offer students free access to app-based primary care through the 98point6 platform.
• Eliminating the Phonathon program in recognition of the evolution of fundraising and canceling alumni events through the end of 2020.
• Ceasing publication of the OWU Magazine.
• Reducing the nonacademic travel budget and eliminating the cell phone allowance.
Board of Trustees Chair John Milligan said the changes immediately help to provide a more accessible and affordable education for students without compromising the quality of their experience.
“The board’s overarching goal – always – is to protect the historic mission of Ohio Wesleyan University and to work with the university president and leadership as they guide the university forward,” said Milligan, a 1983 OWU graduate.
“Already, Rock Jones and university leadership have increased our financial aid budget, eliminated a planned tuition increase, and substantially reduced the cost of our summer classes,” Milligan said. “Furthermore, (these) actions will help secure the resources to keep us moving forward to a better future.”
Despite the cuts, Jones said, other priority projects remain underway to improve the student experience. This includes the university’s Residential Renewal program, highlighted by renovating Smith Hall to create a first-year living-and-learning community and building a 126-bed senior-student apartment complex.
It also includes work to expand and enhance The OWU Connection, the university’s signature program, designed to help students think big, go global, and get real-world internship and research experience.
Learn more about enrolling at Ohio Wesleyan at www.owu.edu/admission.
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