Then and Now

We have repeatedly emphasized that what Chatham confronts right now is not primarily a financial question, but rather an enrollment and critical mass question.  Perhaps it has not been clear what that means.

Chatham University as a whole is not an organization that is in “trouble” ; we are not in the kind of position that we were in the early ’90′s when we really had limited funds to support deficits and had to lay off 20% of our faculty and staff just to get breathing room to innovate. Our situation now is one in which one of our operating parts—our Women’s College—is requiring far more to support it, $5 million this year alone, than it provides through either tuition or fundraising revenue. Projections show it worsening.

We could easily say we are in the circumstances of the two colleges whose recent cuts of faculty and consideration of coeducation in one case have been announced. Article links here:

College of St. Elizabeth Cuts 17 Faculty Jobs and May Consider Admitting Men
Marietta College Cuts 20 Jobs to Relieve Budget Pressures

Saint Elizabeth and Marietta both are cutting significant numbers of faculty in order to be able to invest to attract students and grow.  Two decades ago we followed the same path, and we do not wish to do it again.   We, too, have a mismatch between student enrollment and faculty in the undergraduate college, both in numbers of faculty and fields in which they are teaching.  Some programs and courses are under enrolled.  So far, we are able to make the choice not to cut faculty or staff because we have a small  financial cushion, and because we have a significant commitment to undergraduate education.  We must grow enrollment quickly if we want to keep our excellent teaching faculty.

This current imbalance in student enrollment and faculty staffing cannot last very long, however.  If we deliberate another year, we lose yet another recruiting cycle.  We must act now to make a decision about coeducation.  We can only impact the class that is incoming in the fall of ’15, if we act quickly.  Some of you will say that we should use that time to seek to recruit more women to the undergraduate program.  Those of us who have toiled at this for two decades, and who watch the megatrends, know that both coeducational and women’s colleges are struggling to get enrollment  and believe it is very unwise to continue to focus on the small portion of the college going population who want to go to a women’s college.

Women’s educational needs have changed, and as Donna Brazile said in a recent speech in Pittsburgh to women lawyers, women need leadership training, in a situation in which women are the majority in many law schools.  Chatham will not give up our mission to women and their leadership preparation, but we must seek to admit a broader spectrum of women, as well as men who could want to come to Chatham University, which we all know offers an excellent undergraduate institution in a wonderful city.

Esther B.