During a meeting on Thursday May 5, the Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees approved cuts to Henderson State University that will eliminate 88 faculty positions and 25 degree programs, including English, Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry. Henderson State Chancellor Chuck Ambrose recommended the “academic reorganization” in an effort to “enhance student success, address community-based workforce needs and produce critical financial savings for the institution’s future.”
ASU System President Chuck Welch outlined the dire financial situation at Henderson that was identified in 2019 and steps the ASU System has taken to improve operations, adding that the pandemic both delayed action and made the situation worse.
“It’s important that we all realize just how critical the situation is and that major steps have to be taken to help this university survive, recover and prosper,” Welch said. “We must realize that if the overall model of higher education is flawed, then Henderson’s situation is far worse than that of the vast majority of institutions. But I am heartbroken at the depths of these recommendations and the impact it will have on so many lives. Not one person involved wanted this day to come, or even for these discussions to have to occur.
“Our only two options were to make the hard recommendations necessary to keep the university open, or to do nothing and see the university cease to be a stand-alone institution,” Welch said. “The latter was not an option.”
The Henderson leadership team established an initial financial savings target of $5 million from academic salaries. Elimination or reduction in non-instruction unit salaries and restructuring of administration positions have already resulted in $1.8 million of savings.
According to reports, Henderson State’s academic cuts will reduce total instructional positions by 88 – including 21 currently unfilled positions – or 37 percent of the 237 total positions in spring 2022. Of the remaining 67 positions being cut, 44 are tenured faculty members who may remain employed through the 2022-2023 academic year. The changes will result in annual salary savings of $2.55 million in FY 2023 and an additional $2.79 million in FY 2024.
Chancellor Ambrose said “the reimagining of academic degree programs” is organized into four meta-majors that align with the competencies, skills and talents that design community-based workforce needs: Health, Education and Social Sustainability; Applied Professional Science and Technology; Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Arts and Humanities.
Academic degrees are designated as either “Future Degree Programs,” which will continue to be offered, or as “Teach-Out Degree Programs.” Currently enrolled Henderson students and freshmen in fall 2022 will be supported to complete Teach-Out Degrees. Academic disciplines included in Teach-Out Degrees will continue to be incorporated through the general education and interdisciplinary studies curriculum to enhance outcomes for all students.
“We did not take these decisions lightly, and it is impossible to minimize the impact this has on members of our community,” Ambrose said. “Henderson is a tight-knit family and community, so we understand this is difficult. We will do everything possible to help these individuals during their transitioning.
“We simply cannot grow our way out of Henderson’s financial challenges without implementing significant restructuring,” he added. “Our low degree completion and retention rates have negatively impacted our tuition revenue while our instructional costs have escalated. Student success through degree completion and meeting workforce needs will be our top priority.”
Data showing Henderson’s revenue, expenses, enrollment and graduates by degree program can be found here.
Details about the chancellor’s recommendations, communication from the chancellor and questions and answers about the plan can be found at hsu.edu/futureofhenderson.