Bemidji State University Faces More Potential Layoffs Amid Budget Concerns
This past May, Bemidji State University laid off over 20 individuals as a response of budget deficits, and now, it seems more layoffs may be in store for the school.
“We’re going to post about an $11 million to $10 million deficit, leaving us with about $7 million in the bank. That leaves us with very little room for further deficits,” said Bemidji State Inter Faculty Organization (IFO) President Dr. Dennis Lunt.
“We will be laying off more employees probably in September, so we’re working with folks on campus to get input on those decisions,” said BSU President Dr. John Hoffman.
Some of these budgetary issues can be linked back to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw enrollment rates drop dramatically at the university.
“We have four years of declining enrollment through the pandemic, that really hit us harder than most colleges and universities out there,” said Hoffman, “And so we’ve lost close to a third of our students and that affects our revenues as well.”
“Bemidji State is somewhat unique in that it serves a large area of some of the poorest parts of the state and has very few reserves,” explained Lunt.
This issue of declining revenues is, of course, not unique to BSU, as according to an analysis from the Chronicle of Higher Education, roughly 61% of post-secondary institutions saw a net tuition revenue decline across the country as a result of the pandemic. This is especially impactful, given BSU’s position as a rural university.
“We are being affected by the same weather, but we have a different house,” said Lunt.
“What we need to do now is build an appointment structure at our institution that fits with the revenues that we’re confident in that will help us positioned to grow and to serve those students,” said Hoffman.
The potential layoffs caused by these budgetary issues is something the University’s chapter of the Inter Facility Organization is working to avoid, as the union has engaged in several cost-cutting measures to ensure staff will still be employed.
“We are volunteering to take larger class sizes and we are delaying as many repairs and new purchases as we can,” said Lunt. “To give you an example, my office no longer has a phone in it. I realize the university could save $108 by not having a phone line for me, so I gave it up along with everyone in my department.”
Whether these attempts to prevent layoffs are successful, administration hopes that no matter the outcome, BSU will still support its students.
“We’ve got a hundred years of students who didn’t know they had options to go to college, finding their way to Bemidji State, having a transformational experience going out and change the world,” said Hoffman. “That’s what’s going to get us through this and making sure that we create those stories for future generations of Beavers.”
BSU administration has stated that more information about the potential layoffs will be discussed this September, with the university’s IFO chapter hoping to engage in open communication with administration.