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Cuts to degree programs and faculty at Henderson State University, explained

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nyssa Kruse | May 12, 2022 at 11:20 a.m.
FILE — Henderson State University is shown in this 2019 file photo.

The Arkansas State University System board of trustees on Thursday unanimously approved cuts to Henderson State University that will eliminate 88 faculty positions and 25 degree programs, including in English, mathematics, biology and chemistry.

Back up: why does the university need to make such drastic changes?

The university is $78 million in debt. Henderson State Chancellor Chuck Ambrose said he feared that without large cuts, Henderson State may have to close its campus in Arkadelphia, and the school's debt would be transferred to the state.

Arkansas State University System President Chuck Welch said Henderson State is in debt because of numerous poor decisions by previous administrators, a situation that included budgets that overestimated revenue and underestimated costs; unpaid bills to vendors; and depleted reserves.

The university was brought into the ASU system in 2019.

What exactly is going to be cut?

Along with English, math, chemistry and biology, Henderson will also cut degrees in history, political science, communication and early childhood development.

The decision will mean $5.3 million in savings over two years for the university, mostly through cuts to faculty positions.

Of the 88 positions to be eliminated, 67 are currently filled. Forty-four tenured professors will have their jobs cut, according to an executive summary of the plan the trustees approved Thursday. The affected tenured faculty members will lose their jobs in May 2023.

However, students enrolled in the programs to be phased out will be able to finish their degrees at Henderson State, Ambrose said.

So what will the university actually teach?

The university will still offer a number of bachelor's degrees, including in psychology, aviation, social work, physics, nursing and education.

It will also offer business degree options as well as degrees in computer science and engineering.

Additionally, even though the university plans to cut 25 degree programs, Ambrose said that doesn't mean it won’t be teaching those subjects.

How have faculty responded?

Discontent among the university's professors led faculty leaders to approve a resolution last week expressing "no confidence" in Ambrose, said Fred Worth, a mathematics professor who told the board that he's in his 31st year as a faculty member at Henderson State.

Professors believe Ambrose did not follow proper protocols in making plans for program changes, and some faculty are angry that some of the more expensive programs at the university received no cuts.

Read more about the plans for the university as well as the faculty response from reporter Jaime Adame.

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