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Dive Brief: 

  • The State University of New York at Fredonia plans to cut 13 academic programs to address a roughly $10 million structural deficit, Stephen Kolison Jr., the university’s president, told the campus during a meeting Wednesday. 
  • The programs account for about 15% of the majors offered by SUNY Fredonia. Around 74 students total are enrolled in the programs, representing 2.2% of the university’s undergraduate population, according to Kolison’s presentation. 
  • Kolison said he couldn’t share expected employee cuts due to “uncertainties in retirement and attrition through the next year.” He also did not share a timeline for program eliminations. 

Dive Insight: 

Kolison said SUNY Fredonia has operated with a structural deficit for over a decade due in part to plummeting enrollment at the New York college. The campus had 3,491 students in fall 2022, down 37% from a decade prior. 

He cited challenging demographics in New York state, where population growth has been concentrated among people 65 and older. 

“Competition over a smaller base of college-bound students has contributed to the enrollment being down,” Kolison said in his presentation to the campus. “Because tuition is the single largest driver — the single largest source — of revenue for our campus, enrollment declines have contributed to financial challenges that have led to the structural deficit that we have been grappling with for more than a decade.”

Audience members became audibly upset when Kolison shared the 13 programs slated for elimination. They include bachelor’s degrees in French, philosophy, sociology, Spanish and early childhood education. 

“Are you kidding me?” one attendee yelled out when Kolison finished listing the programs. 

The Leader, SUNY Fredonia’s student newspaper, uploaded a video of the meeting. 

The United University Professions, a SUNY faculty union, opposed the cuts at the Fredonia campus even before Kolison revealed their extent. The union has argued that state funding is available to erase the deficit at Fredonia, but has accused the system’s trustee board of not distributing the money based on campus needs. 

New York state’s fiscal year 2024 budget allocated an additional $163 million in operating funding to SUNY’s state-operated campuses compared to the year before. Of that pot of money, SUNY Fredonia received $2.8 million. 

A SUNY spokesperson defended Fredonia’s plan Thursday. 

“SUNY Fredonia’s blueprint acknowledges that the campus, as stewards of taxpayer dollars, cannot continue to fund teaching to empty classrooms or offering majors with literally only a handful of students enrolled in many cases,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

Other SUNY campuses, meanwhile, are also grappling with major deficits. 

SUNY Potsdam recently announced plans to eliminate 14 programs to close a $9 million deficit. And SUNY Buffalo State is freezing hiring for this entire fiscal year to help lower a $16.5 million budget hole.