Emporia State University Seeks Approval to Begin Campus Workforce Restructuring

TOPEKA — Emporia State University administrators on Thursday proposed rolling out a workforce management policy that could see academic programs halted or employees fired in response to a combination of financial and enrollment issues. .

ESU President Ken Hush said he will seek approval from the Kansas Board of Regents to modify the campus workforce by implementing a framework developed by the Education Governance Council. superior. The policy was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic and recognized low student enrollment, pressure to maintain tuition fees, and the ability of taxpayers to support higher education.

The Board of Regents has decided to make the special workforce management rules available to administrators at ESU and the other five state universities through December 2022. The framework includes guidelines on the termination of tenured professors and other staff and on modifying academic offerings.

Administrators at the University of Kansas had expressed interest in using the policy, but later abandoned that position.

Hush, an ESU graduate who was named president nearly a year ago, said the strategic goal was to realign campus resources “to address structural deficits at the university that have persisted for several years.”

A statement from ESU and an interview with Hush did not reveal details about potential staff cuts or the possibility of program consolidations or cuts. He said the proposed ESU framework would be considered by the Board of Regents on September 14.

“We’re just saying we’d like to use this policy,” the president said. “Frankly, for the next week, we’re not in a position to comment on a lot of these things.”

ESU officials said they have been gathering information about the future of the university from students, faculty and staff since January.

“We went to ask the opinion of our students. And we are listening,” Hush said. “We are simply responding to the needs of these students.

Enrollment at Emporia State and four-year institutions across the United States has been declining for years. College-aged students have many options after high school given labor shortages, growing interest in online course offerings, and an emphasis on college degrees with clear financial gain.

“Students have more choices than ever before,” said Kelly Heine, ESU’s chief marketing officer. “Sixty-one percent of Americans think higher education is going in the wrong direction. At Emporia State, what we really do is assess everything, look very carefully, and really focus on where do we want to invest our limited resources.

ESU acting provost Brent Thomas, who is dean of the college of liberal arts, said decisions about changing university budgets were not as simple as imposing spending cuts. Changes to the ESU would help identify funding that could be repositioned to meet future needs, he said.

“By coming out ahead of this and using this tool, it will allow us to adapt much more quickly to the realities of the changing world around us,” Thomas said. “It’s going to allow us to reinvest those resources so that we can leverage unique strengths and programs that are kind of in our strike zone that we’re doing well. Or maybe even venture into programs that we’re not currently doing.

Recently, Emporia State announced the expansion of in-state tuition for residents of all 48 states.

Representative Stephanie Clayton, an Emporia State graduate and Democrat of Overland Park, said she was disappointed with the Legislature for putting the university and the Board of Regents in a difficult position.

The legislature refused to invest enough in higher education and ESU, she said, because ESU was known for its college of teachers. She said it was no coincidence that there were more women enrolled at ESU and in the teaching profession.

“Given the way the legislature has treated higher education in general, and the way it has tended to devalue education, devalue those who go through training, and frankly, devalue women who are blazing a trail in the world, it really should come so it’s no surprise that this school got the least help from the legislature,” Clayton said.

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