Calvin College Cuts Staff Due to Low Enrollment

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It seems the global recession has hit Calvin College, the Grand Rapids, Mich., school owned by the Christian Reformed Church.

Responding to declining enrollment, the college cut the equivalent of 20 full-time positions, effective June 2011. According to spokesman Matt Kucinski, some administrators and faculty accepted early retirement incentives and those laid off involuntarily were non-teaching staff only.

In a letter written in November explaining the cuts, college president Gaylen Byker said, “We knew we could not continue to balance the budget by freezing the salaries of our employees, [many] of whom have had no pay increases for two years.”

Calvin College’s enrollment has dropped 6.5 percent in the last 10 years, from 4267 in 2001 to 3991 in 2010, according to the college’s Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research. (See www.calvin.edu/admin/enrollment/day10/tenyear.pdf.)

The number of Canadian students has dropped by 34 percent in that time, and the number of CRC-affiliated students has dropped 15 percent. In the same period, the number of international students (non-Canadian) has increased by 47 percent.

“We are not surrendering to these lower-than-desired enrollment numbers,” Byker wrote, adding that the goal is to increase each incoming class from the current average of 950 students to over 1,000 students.

Last fall, the provost’s office hosted several meetings with students, asking for their input on ways for the college to save money. Solita Hoogendam, 21, who attended one of those meetings, said that student’s ideas were all over the map.

“Provost Beversluis pointed out that our differing opinions are exactly what they are dealing with higher up, as they have this exact same discussion. Each person values different things and those values are reflected in where they think Calvin's money should be spent,” she said.

But the “one overarching sentiment” among students at the meeting was “that professors are essentially what make Calvin as great as it is,” Hoogendam said. “Their commitment and willingness to be on a pay freeze is greatly appreciated by students.”

About the Author

Roxanne Van Farowe is a freelance writer.

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