A liberal arts college in suburban Chicago has laid off 51 faculty and staff members and closed more than a dozen academic programs because of budget concerns exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Concordia University Chicago, located in River Forest, is offering retirement and severance packages to those who were laid off, left their jobs or had their positions eliminated, according to The Chicago Tribune. University officials declined to detail what was in the packages.
Fifteen programs are on the chopping block, including chemistry, business communication, graphic arts and theater, according to an email sent to students. Current students will be able to complete their degrees, potentially with partnerships at nearby schools, but new students won't be able to enroll.
University President Russell Dawn said during a recent online forum with students that the Board of Regents made the decision final earlier this month following a two year evaluation, according to the newspaper.
Dawn said new costs for changing to remote learning and other expenses related to the pandemic accelerated problems and without changes a financial crisis was looming.
“It was a long and challenging process,” Dawn said. “It involved people from a variety of areas across the institution. It involved a great deal of data. We actually had consultants come in and help us put together the data we would need in order to do a really thorough job of it.”
Still, some students said the move took them by surprise.
Esmeralda Torres, 20, who is studying business said she was disappointed.
“A lot of people were upset, and I don’t blame them,” said Torres, a senior. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for the faculty members at Concordia, and at the end of the day, they are not in control of what’s going on.”
More than 6,000 students attend the private Lutheran school, which among the eight institutions of the national Concordia University System.