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Bethel University cuts staff, sports program

Bethel University cuts staff, sports program

From Cumberland Presbyterian Magazine

by Matthew Gore, CP Magazine

McKENZIE, Tenn. (June 27) – Bethel University Interim President Rev. Dr. Robert Watkins sent an email to faculty and staff on June 26, 2024, explaining the institution’s difficult financial situation and steps being taken to address it. “These actions are difficult and cause distress, but they are necessary to establish a sustainable financial foundation to serve our students,” Watkins said.

According to Dr. Watkins, the enrollment deficit after COVID-19 that most educational institutions are facing has caught the university somewhat by surprise. Reduced enrollment meant even less funding for programs, but without a corresponding reduction in spending. Initially, a hiring freeze, suspension of the retirement matching program and elimination of non-essential spending solved the problem. Bethel also secured employee retention credit financing from the federal government, which alleviated the shortfall somewhat.

Watkins continued, “In order to achieve a balanced budget, we have taken additional steps to reduce Bethel’s expenses to a level sympathetic to our current enrollments and income. This included eliminating our swimming, bowling and skating programs, reducing faculty and staff positions, reducing operating expenses and other measures.”

“We will truly miss those faculty and staff members affected by these layoffs, but these steps will allow Bethel to maintain the financial strength necessary to provide the educational and experiential learning environment our students need to succeed,” Watkins said .

Staff and staff reductions are rumored to have cost ten or more employees and numerous already vacant positions will not be filled.