The University of Maryland University College announced Friday it would lay off 70 employees in the latest sign of problems at the school, which caters to nontraditional students including members of the military, federal employees and other working adults.
The layoffs, which began last week, come as declining enrollment has resulted in a loss of revenue. They will affect staff “across the board” at the Adelphi and Largo campuses but not faculty members, UMUC spokesman Bob Ludwig said. The university employs about 2,000 people in the United States.
Ludwig said the college is facing a $25 million shortfall in the fiscal year that began last summer. The number of students at the college is expected to decline 6.5 percent in the fall semester.
“This is a painful period for our entire community, especially for those whose jobs have been affected. I deeply regret the personal and professional impact on each of these individuals,” UMUC President Javier Miyares wrote Friday in a message to the university community. “Enrollments are down as a result of the mature adult online education market, increased competition, the downsizing of the military, and the impact of the federal budget sequester.”
The past few years have been tumultuous at UMUC. In February 2012, then-president Susan C. Aldridge was placed on indefinite leave, and she resigned the next month. State auditors announced a year later that UMUC may have overpaid $3.3 million to a marketing contractor and that the university made $415,000 in questionable payments to employees over several years.
University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan said that no other college in the system has planned significant layoffs.
“University College is a very special circumstance because they are basically totally tuition-dependent,” said Kirwan. “They get very little money from the state, so their fortunes rise and fall based on student demand.”
Ludwig said 10 of the 70 staff members being laid off are contract employees who will not have their contracts renewed.
Additionally, 92 adjunct professors had been set to transition soon into full-time faculty positions, but that number has been revised to 20, Ludwig said. Miyares’s e-mail indicated that some adjuncts who had moved into full-time roles might become adjuncts again.
Ludwig said the layoffs will save $8.3 million and that the rest of the budget gap will be made up by eliminating vacant positions and reducing other operating costs.
Online colleges nationwide are facing competition from for-profit institutions and free massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Ludwig added that the university was suffering the effects of a nationwide demographic shift.
“Our typical student is 31 years old,” he said. “That demographic between 24 to 35 is declining — that’s where we feel the impact of that.”
Ludwig, who said the layoffs “are to align our budget for 2015,” declined to comment on whether more layoffs are expected.