DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – St. Norbert College had 1,950 students in 2019. Now it has 1,750. And after Wednesday, it has 29 fewer staff members.
“As demographics produce fewer 18-22 year-olds, you have to sometimes adjust the size of your organization, and that’s what we’ve done,” St. Norbert College president Laurie Joyner said.
An additional 12 staff members will end their time working at St. Norbert this semester, this academic year or by December 2024 depending on their position, according to the college.
“Seven are faculty members. Of those seven, three are visiting faculty,” a spokesperson for the college said. “No tenured faculty were impacted.”
Joyner said that the cuts were made to try to prevent an increase in tuition.
“Our number one priority is to make sure that this education is accessible and affordable to our students and families, and so what that means in this economy is really working hard to try to figure out how we can deliver on that same quality educational experience but in the most efficient and effective way possible,” Joyner said.
The staff members were cut in a way that positions were entirely eliminated to ease budgetary constraints.
“Positions in areas where we might be able to streamline or structure to regain efficiency (were cut),” Joyner said. “These sorts of things are not new to higher education, and especially in the last 5-10 years.”
27 colleges have closed across the U.S. since March 2020, according to Best Colleges. Two of them were in Wisconsin, Cardinal Stritch University and Holy Family College, which closed in May 2023 and August 2020, respectively.
“Wanting to have an alma mater in 10 or 20 years is something that I would love to say that I can have and unfortunately some graduates of colleges around Wisconsin can’t say that anymore,” St. Norbert college senior Frances Foote said. “The college needs to do what’s best for the financial success of the college, and that unfortunately comes with the cuts of some valuable people on campus.”
Despite being deemed necessary by the college, she said that the staff cuts were completely unexpected for her.
“I was shocked at first,” Foote said. “It’s just not easy seeing them leave because they have been such an integral part of the campus.”
Foote’s love for education, as an education major herself, is hard to miss. But Joyner said that, in addition to demographics, the appreciation for attendance is also in decline.
“St. Norbert College is not immune from a number of the changes that are taking place in higher education across the country,” Joyner said. “More and more people are beginning to question the value of higher education, so it’s incumbent upon us to be more clear about the true measure of our success.”
She said that more clarity on the measure of an institution’s success is rooted in sharing the stories of the people who had their lives changed and shaped by their experiences there. But with numbers trending downward, Joyner said she can not rule out future staff cuts.
“We hope not, but I wouldn’t want to speculate into the future.”