Southern Oregon University will lay off at least a dozen staff members after the end of June and a number of contract employees should expect to have their annual contracts terminated by then, a university official said Monday.
The layoffs are painful but necessary, as the university works to cut about $2.5 million to balance its budget, said Jim Beaver, director of interactive marketing and media relations at SOU.
In addition to the dozen layoffs, the university will not fill some vacant positions, will reduce its number of adjunct professors — professors who do not have permanent positions at the school — and discontinue hiring searches for current vacancies.
"This is the fourth spring in a row the university has had to make these difficult adjustments," said Beaver, noting that previous cuts included furlough days for all staff.
Beaver said the hard knocks of budget balancing fall primarily on the backs of the university's employees because 80 percent of SOU's budget is in staffing.
"These are painful decisions," he said. "Dedicated and talented colleagues we have worked with for decades will be leaving, and will be greatly missed."
Three SOU employees, who acknowledged receiving notices that their contracts would not be renewed, declined to comment when contacted by a reporter.
"I'd rather not burn my bridges," said one woman who received a non-renewal letter.
SOU has experienced record enrollment numbers during the past three years and seen its tuition receipts steadily climb. Beaver said a continual dropoff in state funding is "most directly related" to the current cutbacks.
At the beginning of the last biennium, during 2009, SOU received about $18 million in state support, he said; that figure has dwindled to about $13 million currently.
While the state has cut about 27 percent of its financial support to SOU since 2009, tuition increases at the school have increased only 15 percent during that span, said Jon Eldridge, vice president of student affairs.
"It's just not enough to keep up with the cuts that the state is laying on us," Beaver said. "The state is taking money away faster than the university can offset the cuts with higher enrollment and tuition revenue."
Students at SOU saw a 6.8 percent increase in tuition going into this academic year, which brings the cost for a resident undergraduate taking 12 credits to $2,030 a term in tuition and fees, said Beaver. The upward tuition trend will likely continue if state support continues to decline, he said.
"As we work through these financial challenges, our primary goal is to protect the core of the educational enterprise — the relationship between students and their professors," said Beaver. "Class sizes will be larger as a result of the reductions. "… We hope our students will not notice the difference."
Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.