Monday, December 22, 2014

OU layoffs hit 18 in bid to balance budget, university says

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/26/2014

Ottawa University acknowledged today it eliminated, or reduced to half-time, 18 positions across a number of university-wide functions to ensure a balanced budget in new fiscal year, which begins Tuesday. 

Of the affected positions, most are in staff support areas, and 14 of the personnel were based at OU’s residential campus, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa, according to an OU news release.

The university’s revenues from its Adult, Professional and Online units have been flat to declining this year, with the notable exception of OU-Kansas City, which saw a sizable increase, the release said. As has been the case for many higher educational institutions in the past two years, adult program enrollments have been a challenge due to a number of competitive, economic and regulatory factors, university officials said.

“We sincerely regret the necessity of any reduction in force, even one as relatively modest as this one, as we have worked very hard to protect jobs for our employees,” Kevin Eichner, OU president, said. “However, prudent financial management requires that we be constantly vigilant about our cost structure even as we seek to grow our enrollments here at the College in Ottawa and through our Adult sites, Online, and new program expansions such as Engineering, Data Science, Finance, Marketing and others.

“This type of action is, unfortunately, all too common among higher educational institutions these days, and we have been more fortunate than most to have largely avoided most such cuts until now,” Eichner said.

Of the 267 people who remain employed at Ottawa University, 150 have joined OU since 2008, Eichner said. 

“The university has been and remains a vibrant jobs provider in some very tough times for higher educational institutions,” he said. “While we expect some good enrollment growth at our residential college in Ottawa this fall, with our new student deposits up a healthy 27 percent at this date, adult market pressures at some of our sites necessitate these moves now largely as a preventive measure.” 

Ottawa University employs 267 people at its campuses in Kansas, Arizona, Indiana, Wisconsin, and in its online unit, plus hundreds of

adjunct faculty across the country, the release said. The university continues to employ 164 people at its campus in Ottawa, the release said.

“We are hopeful that a combination of our new programs and new initiatives will again produce strong growth in enrollments and revenues for our Adult, Professional and Online units, but this will take time,” Eichner said. “We need to make certain our costs are in line with expected revenues to ensure we are again able to produce a balanced budget next year, on top of the five straight we have enjoyed recently.”

All employees whose positions have been terminated have been offered severance packages and career coaching services, if they desire them, the release said. 

Any employee who is currently enrolled at OU or whose family member is enrolled will be afforded free tuition until graduation, university officials said. A “hardship fund” is being established for any employee who might need special assistance if they remain unemployed or have special needs after their severance and/or unemployment benefits are exhausted, the release said.

“We work very hard to ensure that our departing colleagues are treated with care, concern and dignity,” Eichner said.

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