Covenant College eliminated eight staff positions this June, three of them occupied, in the midst of a $1.25 million budget shortfall caused partially by lower admission and retention rates.
The college finished Financial Year 2015 “in the black” with an excess income of approximately $200,000, according to the President’s October Report to the Board of Trustees. Financial Year 2016, however, has not gotten off to such a smooth start.
“Missing both our retention and admissions targets has had a significant negative impact on our FY2016 budget,” said Halvorson. “In the simplest terms, being down by roughly 50 students, at an average revenue-per-student of $25,000, means that we began the year with about a $1.25 million budget deficit.”
One of the six primary goals in the most recent Covenant College Strategic Map is to “strengthen organizational resilience and innovation.” Covenant’s HR Director, Tonya Greeson, told the Bagpipe that the administration worked hard to identify non-critical positions— that were either redundant or no longer needed.
Greeson said that some job duties were outsourced to increase efficiency. Eliminating other positions called for departmental restructuring. College services have changed over the years, and some positions were simply no longer needed.
This budget year will be an extremely tight one for the college. A 15% reduction in operational spending is currently in effect college-wide, despite the June layoffs.
Departments are making every effort to operate efficiently in light of the budget cuts, but eliminating some redundant or unnecessary employment positions was an inevitable move on the part of the college in order to maximize structural efficiency, Greeson said.
Covenant College already budgets 60% of its spending on personnel. In light of the June layoffs and current budget cuts, however, Greeson doesn’t foresee further layoffs in the near future, although that could change.
In an interview with the Bagpipe, President Halvorson said that the college made every effort to invest strategically as it was making cuts. “We brought on an additional Admissions Counselor, which will ideally increase our enrollment numbers,” said Halvorson.
Positions under the Work Study program will not be affected by the budget cuts, since funding for those positions comes largely from the federal government.
Covenant made every effort to minimize the affect the June layoffs will have on students. Athletes may have noticed that the Athletic Department lost one of its three Athletic Trainers. The mailroom also lost an employee, although Greeson says that the college can utilize Work Study employees and Mark 10:45 program volunteers to fill the void.
Halvorson was not personally involved in making decisions on which positions to eliminate, but said that he knows the process was painstaking. He said that administration made every effort to minimize the effects on those who were laid off.
One college employee, who had been employed by Covenant for over twenty years, was even offered a job in another department, but decided to retire instead.
Rumors had been circulating that the layoffs were an indirect result of debt incurred by the Carter construction project. The construction, however, is on its own budget that has been in planning for years. On the other hand, the operational budget—a majority of which goes to compensate employees—is largely funded by student tuition.
Halvorson said that he was thankful that five of the eight affected positions were vacant.