On the morning of May 2, Hannibal-Lagrange University leaders called a meeting of faculty and staff to announce the good news: they have raised $ 1.5 million and the fruit will remain open for the semester.
Employees have been anxiously awaiting such news since March when Missouri’s nearly 100-year-old Baptist College received a horrific financial assessment. Although the funds raised raised a deficit of $ 2.2 million for administrators to pay off their university debts, they seem to be enough to avoid an “impending catastrophe,” said Transitional President Rodney Harrison, who said the organization faced off two months ago.
Ray Carty, vice president of Hannibal-Lagrange for Institutional Progress, called the success of the fundraising a sign of God’s blessing.
“People are responding to what God still has to do at HLGU,” he said. PathThe official news arm of the Missouri Baptist Convention, which also owns Hannibal-Lagrange.
Hours after the meeting, administrators began calling individual faculty and staff to Harrison’s office for bad news: they needed to let people go to help save an additional $ 1.1 million on their cost-saving system.
The cuts include multiple department chairs, a Missouri State representative and a two-time Fulbright scholar who was the only faculty member in the history department, according to the university’s staff directory. Many of those released have been in Hannibal-Lagrange for more than a decade.
Christina Brenman, chair of HLGU’s Department of Communications Studies, and her husband, Kyle Brenman, the university’s director of public safety, were repeatedly allowed to attend the meeting. Christina, who had just finished her 18th year there, said she was disappointed when she hoped the university would be cut, due to disconnection between “good news” officials given earlier in the day and a wave of layoffs later that afternoon. .
“Time makes it stomach tight,” he said. “These are hard days for our family.”
Weeks have been cut before the week. Louis Riggs taught at Hannibal-Lagrange for 17 years before releasing him earlier this month. His wife, Ann Riggs, worked at the organization for 18 years, most recently as director of a nursing program; He too was cut off.
Louis Riggs, an English professor who also represents the state of Missouri, said senior faculty members were most affected by the layoffs. He expressed concern that their removal would have serious consequences for the university’s institutional memory as well as the education it provides.
“The quality of education is going to be very different,” he said. “We’re talking about hundreds of years of experience walking out the door. I don’t know how you’ll replace it.”
The university is not the first to be cut since the state of emergency was declared in March. Administrators immediately put all faculty members on temporary contracts and discontinued retirement benefits. Wages were also reduced by 20 percent through shorter working weeks, furloughs and personal pay cuts. The Wrestling And the golf program was dropped last month.
In an email Inside higher edHarrison and Vice President Robert Matz declined to give the exact number of retrenched faculty, but said 15 percent of “faculty positions” had been dropped or reduced to part-time roles, and some staff had been reduced through retirement and resignation.
“While we are saddened by the departure of these valued colleagues, there was no other option but to take HLGU into the future,” wrote Harrison and Matz.
Faculty sources have been contacted for this article stating that at least a dozen professors and staff will not return in the fall.
Since their 12-month contracts were exchanged for a non-binding two-week contract in March, the faculty said they did not expect to pay after the end of this month.
Harrison and Matz said that when all faculty contracts were canceled due to financial need, “the board and administration are committed to respecting what we hold as a moral obligation to the affected faculty and staff as revenue and permits.”
Tim Fuller, founder of Fuller Higher Aid Solutions, a consulting firm for Christian colleges, says that when an organization seems to be heading for a mountain, the desire to be open can conflict with the college’s educational mission.
“Christian colleges see their mission as simply going beyond them, to prepare these people for what God is calling them to do,” he said. “It’s challenging when the mission becomes ‘what we have to do to stay open’ … you start to think, we’ve lost our way.”
‘A Very Uncertain Future’
Harrison and Matz wrote that in addition to raising funds and reducing employment, they have taken the initiative to “rebuild the organization’s entire business model to create a more sustainable path for the future of the university.” This includes a “convenient course” and extended online offers.
As of Wednesday, most of the classes in HLGU’s course catalog for the fall of 2022 were marked as “TBA” where designated professors would normally be listed. But despite the layoffs, Harrison and Matz wrote that they would have to cut any course “not expected” and that faculty would be contracted for “the same number of credit hours” as this past semester.
Nonetheless, Louis Riggs fears that emergency measures will have a lasting effect on enrollment numbers, saying students are “looking to a very uncertain future.”
“How do you expect to gain confidence … when you continue to cut and trim, in a place where basically no one is left, and at the same time advertise yourself to offer world-class education?” He said. “Well, which world? That’s not the world most of us live in. “
Over the past decade, Hannibal-Lagrange enrollment has dropped by 35 percent, rising from about 1,200 students in 2012-13 to 780 in 2021-22. It struggled with re-enrollment; According to the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System, in 2017, the retention rate was less than 50 percent, but by 2020 it has risen to 60 percent.
For a small institution that is largely financially dependent on tuition, reversing that tendency — or at least compensating for the loss অত্যন্ত is crucial for the future of the university.
Harrison and Mattz said the fall enrollment would not be finalized until the expiration date, adding that they were “satisfied with the retention number.”
Christina Brenman said change and instability did not go unnoticed by student organizations. He recalls numerous students on campus who “felt a real sense of frustration” after returning from a spring break. Many of his advices stopped at his office to share their concerns and seek advice, he said.
“If you want to keep the morale and confidence and help the students go back, you help them feel better that they are coming back,” he said. “It’s the unknown and the uncertainty that’s probably the most frustrating for them.”
Fuller said that when the public has a financial crisis and wide cuts like Hannibal-Lagrange, it can be difficult to attract new students and retain existing ones.
“Already recruiting students for everything else that’s going on is challenging enough,” Fuller said. “When there’s this kind of formality across the bow, it makes it even more so.”
A hierarchical culture
Christina Brenman’s perspective on Hannibal-Lagrange’s financial and management challenges is not just a long-time faculty member: she wrote her PhD. Research studies on the marketing of small Midwestern Christian colleges using HLGU as its case study.
For his research, he spoke to about 50 faculty members, administrators, and staff at the university, and he noted that the vast majority shared the same concern: that there was virtually no discussion of enrollment, financial management, or strategic planning outside of administration.
“What came out of my research was this huge gap between the faculty and the staff and the administrative decision,” he said. “It’s called a hierarchical culture, because that’s what it is. It’s strictly top-down. “
When he offered to share his findings with then-President Anthony Allen and other officials in 2018, they listened intently during the hour-long meeting – and then did nothing, he said.
“It was a great conversation,” he said. “And, as far as I know, it ended here.”
Louis Riggs said there was “no shared governance” in Hannibal-Lagrange, which he believed could contribute to the university’s financial problems and, ultimately, the need to lay off teachers for so long.
“I saw some warning signs, I’m not saying they were ignored, but they didn’t get much attention,” he said. “Then the people who got it on their necks – the faculty members, the well-to-do, the good and the faithful slaves – are victims of a situation beyond our control.”
‘First taste of a bitter cup’
Nearly two decades after Hannibal-Lagrange, Louis Riggs said he truly hopes the university will be able to remain open after the fall semester. But given the serious cuts, declining enrollment and rapid demographic cliffs for potential college-age students, he is not optimistic about the university’s future.
“I don’t think there’s an awareness that this is the first taste of a bitter cup,” he said.
Hannibal-Lagrange is not alone in facing a difficult future.
“Higher education in general, not just Christian higher education, was leading to the thinning of livestock before the epidemic,” Fuller said. “Coming out of the epidemic, without that federal [stimulus] I mean, the problems that used to be real are now more real… and Hannibal-Lagrange’s confrontation is gaining momentum. ”
Fuller said the choice between surrendering to a declining enrollment trend year after year and “honking down” through austerity measures is a difficult one, but more organizations like Hannibal-Lagrange may have to make in the coming years.
“It’s a choice between a thousand cut deaths and a band-aid shut down at once,” he said. “Neither is a particularly pleasant choice to make.”
Although concerned for his colleagues outside of work, Louis Riggs said he was not worried about his financial future; He plans to return to law and will still have a political career. But he will miss teaching at Hannibal-Lagrange.
“I loved teaching there for the rest of my life,” he said. “The relationship you build with students, with colleagues, with people in the community করা it’s a heartbreaking blow to think it’s gone.”