Oakwood University to Eliminate 46 positions

Oakwood University, the historically black Seventh-day Adventist school in Huntsville, Alabama, announced that it will eliminate 46 jobs as it seeks to cut costs and remain economically viable.  Four faculty and 18 staff members have already taken voluntary severance packages, and another 26 staff positions are being eliminated or consolidated, reports Adventist Review news editor Andrew McChesney.  The restructuring will reduce the number of employees from 345 to 299, and is expected to save $2.8 million in the near term, and $11 million over the next five years.

The staff reductions were made necessary by a drop in enrollment, from 1,925 students in the fall 2014 term, to 1,749 in the fall 2015 term.  But Oakwood also has an unusual surplus of non-faculty positions, employing two staff members for every faculty member.  According to Oakwood President Leslie N. Pollard, at least three outside consultants had asked in recent months why the university had so many employees for an institution of its size.  Pollard himself will lose one of his three administrative assistants in the restructuring. 

As a black college, Oakwood was not affiliated with any of the Unions but rather with the General Conference, which, in late 2014, transferred control of the institution to the North American Division.  NAD president Dan Jackson was strongly supportive of the restructuring.

The Adventist colleges in North America have collectively suffered a fifteen percent (15%) reduction in enrollment over the past five years. This year, Adventist colleges and universities in North America saw a 4.3 percent decline in first-time students, including a 3.3 percent loss in undergraduate enrollment, and a 5.2 percent loss in graduate student enrollment. 

The reduction in enrollment likely is related to the demographic changes I discussed here.  The U.S. and Candian-born population are not having children at anywhere near replacement rates, whereas immigrants, who are still having children, tend to be further down the economic ladder, and less able to afford the expensive private colleges sponsored by the Adventist Church.  Last October, the NAD's Education Task Force issued a demographic report that revealed that nearly 70% of Adventist households live on a household income of $50,000 or less, and 39% were earning less than $25,000 annually.