Walla Walla University announced Wednesday night, Feb. 26, at a faculty and staff meeting that it will reduce its faculty and staff workforce as part of a broad-based effort to preserve the university’s financial position.
The reduction in workforce will be four full-time-equivalent positions by June 30, 2020. Employees impacted will be notified by March 12, 2020. Eleven additional full-time-equivalent positions will not be filled as a result of resignations and retirements.
“This reduction in force is painful for our entire university family,” said John McVay, WWU president. “However, as faithful stewards of an institution entrusted to us by our students and alumni, church community, and donors, we must take steps to ensure both the immediate and long-term financial health of the university.”
For nearly a decade, the university achieved positive revenue surpluses through strong net tuition revenue and operational savings initiatives, which enabled it to build reserves and earn its current composite finance index (CFI) score of 5.7 on a 10-point scale. (A score of three indicates minimal financial health, and scores approaching six indicate strong enough financial health to weather financial difficulty.)
However, despite two successive years of record-high, freshman class enrollment, the university’s employment costs are increasing at a rate higher than tuition and fee revenue. “We dipped into our reserves to offset this increase in costs, but this is not a sustainable solution,” said McVay.
Reductions are part of a university strategy, which will be complemented with other improvement initiatives to support ongoing efforts in order to effectively manage employment and operational costs, McVay said. This strategy will also include adjusting the university’s current areas of study and launching new academic programs to meet the projected demand from students and employers.
“We intend to lean into this difficult and strategic work to position the university for growth and economic stability for years to come,” McVay said. “Like countless faculty and staff before us, we’re deeply committed to delivering on the university’s mission both now and well into the future.”
Walla Walla University currently has 1,864 students enrolled across five campuses in the Pacific Northwest, including College Place, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Anacortes, Washington; and Missoula and Billings, Montana. The university employs 309 people in more than 287 full-time-equivalent positions.
— Aaron Nakamura is director of Marketing and University Relations for Walla Walla University.