June 15, 2017

Facing budget deficit, USciences announces layoffs, program changes

Higher Education Colleges
Carroll - USciences Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia's Spruce Hill neighborhood.

The University of the Sciences has laid off employees and begun to restructure its educational programs in an effort to both "right-size" the university and eliminate a $4.5 million budget deficit.

President Paul Katz announced the changes Wednesday in a letter sent to USciences employees.

The West Philadelphia university laid off 22 staff positions across 15 departments and eliminated two open staff positions. Another eight staffers were converted into 10-month employees.

Additionally, eight tenured faculty members accepted a voluntary early separation agreement. Another six faculty positions from six programs and two adjunct positions were eliminated.

"We do not foresee any additional planned faculty or staff reductions," Katz wrote in the letter. "We are grateful for the service of these dedicated employees who are leaving the university, and we will do all we can to support those impacted by this transformation."

The changes follow a program review and prioritization process that began in February 2016. That review examined the university's credit and non-credit programs.

"It wasn't just about reducing the budget deficit, which was about $4.5 million," director of communications Brian C. Kirschner said. "It was about positioning the university for future success."

The review found USciences offers the proper programs, but at a higher cost than its competition. Its per-student instruction cost is 61 percent over median for comparable schools. Annual tuition at the school is $38,294, according to its website.

USciences derives about 80 percent of its revenue from tuition, Kirschner said.

Declining enrollment has impacted the university's revenue. Meanwhile, the university's student-to-faculty ratio has dropped from 14:1 in 2009 to 9:1.

The incoming freshman class, totaling more than 350 students, marks an increase of 36 students from last school year. But it was not enough to eliminate the budget deficit on its own.

"Quite simply, the university is no longer correctly 'right sized' for future success," Katz wrote.

To succeed, USciences must maintain a more "student-centric environment," generate new revenue streams and develop new partnerships as it nears its bicentennial anniversary in 2021, Katz wrote.

USciences also will begin phasing out its master of public health program, online doctorate of occupational therapy program and forensic science certificate and minor. Its small business, professional writing and music minors also will be phased out.

The university instead will continue making significant investments to its brewing science certificate program and its Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science program. It is adding an undergraduate neuroscience program this fall.

It also will invest in a Substance Use Disorders Center that will provide educational programs and other services.

On the athletics front, USciences will no longer support women's and mixed rifle teams. Instead, it will add men's and women's track and field for the 2017-18 school year. The university has future plans to add soccer and lacrosse teams for both men and women.

"USciences must build on our heritage by offering high quality, innovative programs combined with the flexibility needed for a diverse student body that includes both traditional and nontraditional students."