Major Cuts Ahead For Guilford College Faculty
Nearly twenty faculty members at Guilford College may soon be facing unemployment. The combination of substantial debt payments resulting from campus renovations and upgrades over the past four years, lower enrollment numbers, and the costs of an ongoing pandemic have created a perfect storm for the Quaker tradition private school in Greensboro. WFDD’s David Ford spoke with Interim President Carol Moore.
On the current fiscal situation at Guilford College:
The financial challenges that the college has been experiencing were, of course, exacerbated by COVID. The college has done a really wonderful job at protecting our students, and our number of incidents and cases is extremely low, and we're very proud of that. But that all comes at a price. And so, the college is looking to restructure its budget in the downward direction by several million dollars. And colleges these days — particularly small colleges — don't have a rich budget. So, trying to eke out several million dollars out of that budget is a tough thing to do. And also higher ed historically has always been very good at adding new majors and adding new courses. And higher education has not been very good at saying, well, this major is really not very popular anymore or these courses don't really fill up. So, they're very loathe to get rid of those low enrolled courses.
On campus renovation costs and debts owed:
You know, the college is a beautiful campus, a very stately campus with lots of rolling lawns and brick buildings with columns. But those buildings are dated and the buildings were in a state of disrepair. And the board did make a decision in those years, 2016 to 2018, to borrow significantly, issuing bonds to upgrade the facilities such that they would be attractive to students. So, the total debt is close to $73 million, but those were really essential renovations in order to attract students. Did they present a debt that's a challenge? Well, yes, but every institution has to make those kind of tough decisions.
Roughly one dozen majors are being considered for termination, including history, chemistry, and mathematics. Will courses in those subjects continue to be taught at Guilford?
Sure, we will have courses in all of those areas that will fulfill our general education requirements and will also be available as student electives. Or perhaps a student might want to put a string of those courses together and be a history minor or a Spanish minor. It's just that those upper level courses, which tend to have very low enrollments, will no longer be available.
On the 19 tenured faculty members who are slated to be let go:
They will be teaching through the rest of the academic year and receive their full salary and benefits. We're working on some ways to help them in the transition by looking at potential severances, but also bringing in some outplacement counseling for faculty to help them find positions elsewhere.
On faculty decision-making input:
We've already gathered quite a bit of input from faculty and staff. The process was started in September, and it has just really come to a point in time right now with my recommendations. Faculty have an option to appeal those recommendations. The board has already heard those recommendations and will be deliberating for the next couple of months before a final determination is made. In the meantime, appeals will come forward to myself and ultimately will be shared with the board.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.