PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Last week Bradley University announced it was suffering a $13 million deficit for the 2023 fiscal year. Stephen Standifird, university president, said deficits are happening across the nation with institutions of higher learning.
“That’s a big part of the challenge that we face is that same challenge that every other organization is facing in Higher Ed right now,” he said.
Standifird does not publicly pinpoint any exact reason or reasons for how the private university reached this point.
“One of the things that is happening in higher education right now is at any one time about 25% of the seats in higher education are empty. And what that’s resulted in is significant price pressure in the industry and that has done a lot to really change the structure of the industry in general,” said Standifird. “Bradley is feeling this but I think if you pay attention to the media you’ll see this is happening throughout higher education.”
With the start of classes two weeks away, it is still unclear what will be cut for this upcoming school year. Standifird said he is not able to tell how many programs will be cut. He said that programs will be under review.
“One of the things we’re going to be doing this semester is we’re going to be engaging in an active process to review the portfolio of offerings by Bradley University. It’s going to be a collaborative process, my colleagues are going to be a part of that. And one of the things we’re going to be very sensitive to is really responding to the needs and interests of today’s students,” the president said.
However, last week some students received an email that the Center for Legal Studies will be closed indefinitely. That email came from the now-former director who said her position has been eliminated.
“So one of the things that I’m being very careful about, I’m not going to talk about individual positions that have cut,” said Standifird. “I will tell you that when we look at a position, one of the things we are making an assessment on is whether we can do that function in a way that is equally effective but more efficient. For any position that is going to be eliminated that is a conclusion that we have come to, that there is another way to do that that’s more efficient for the organization.”
Standifird said that students will receive updates about changes as it pertains to them.
“For the students who are impacted, they’ve been given direct information on how they can still complete their programs, still complete their activities,” he said. “Any student who is impacted by any change will receive a notice to make sure that they continue to stay on the path that allows them to be successful.”
Students are frustrated with the way the university is handling its affairs. Senior Hailey Keeton started a petition to save the Center for Legal Studies.
“This is not okay that multiple centers for advising are being shut down mercilessly without us being aware of it. And they’re making all these promises, stating all these things but we don’t know what’s really happening,” she said.
Other students like senior Logan Caudill are also confused and feel blindsided by the university’s announcement.
“The only thing I heard was that the freshmen class was going to be smaller this year, but learning that really didn’t have too much of an effect on the deficit that was already going to be there,” he said. “I almost think there’s some forecasting that went wrong with our budget and unfortunately now the students are the ones who are paying the price.”
Standifird said that the university has a comprehensive plan for moving forward that involves several key areas.
“One of those areas is cost reduction and that’s something we’re focusing on right now. But we’re also looking at the same time at new program investment and there are opportunities for us to explore new opportunities that might bring in additional students as well. So it’s a combination of those two that’s at the heart of the plan,” he said.
Standifird said he is confident in the university’s ability to execute the plan.
“These are challenging times for higher education. It’s a challenge for every university. Bradley University is still in a strong position,” he said. “Our balance sheet is strong, we’re in a strong financial position a large part because of our strong endowment and we have a strong plan for moving forward.”