With enrollment dropping, Mercyhurst cuts jobs
ERIE — Mercyhurst University has eliminated 14 administration and staff positions and is reducing the positions of six other employees from full time to part time.
The university is suspending employer contributions to its pension plan through May, Mercyhurst President Tom Gamble said Thursday. Some of the more highly paid members of Gamble’s staff also accepted pay cuts for the rest of the academic year.
The private Roman Catholic university did not say which positions were eliminated or reduced to part time, or which staff members accepted pay cuts. No faculty positions were eliminated, and no academic programs were eliminated or reduced, said Gary Brown, senior vice president for strategic finance.
Athletic programs were affected, but no positions that directly work with student athletes were eliminated, Brown said.
“We do not believe with the changes that were made that there is going to be any significant impact on service to the students, the faculty or the university,” Brown said, adding that the university values the work of the people who were affected by the cuts.
The layoffs are in response to changing student demographics and the shifting interests of students, and essential to the long-term health of the university, Gamble said.
“They are necessary for us to continue our goal of creating high-quality, exciting and relevant academic programs, as well as our commitment to providing sufficient financial aid to keep a Mercyhurst education affordable to our students,” Gamble said in a letter Thursday afternoon to Mercyhurst employees.
“Still, those affected by this news are our co-workers and our friends. All have made valuable contributions to the university. Eliminating their positions to better secure our strategic future was a difficult decision, one that I own,” he said.
Mercyhurst University, whose main campus is in Erie, has 559 full-time employees universitywide. The layoffs represent a cut of about 2.5 percent. Mercyhurst has satellite campuses in North East and Corry and at Erie’s Booker T. Washington Center. Mercyhurst closed its campus in Girard at the end of the 2013-14 academic year because of low enrollment.
The university saw enrollment drop by about 5 percent across all campuses from 2013-14, to 3,938 in 2014-15. The resulting decline in revenue and the need to strengthen and invest in programs to match students’ interests drove the need for Thursday’s cuts, Brown said.
“It’s really no different than what you do at home,” Brown said. “When kids decide they’re going to college and you have to pay college bills, you say ‘I have to come up with X amount of money, how am I going to do this?’ You move things around in your own budget.”