Budget adjustments announced last week by Southwestern College include the reorganization and restructuring of several administrative and staff functions. Among the downsizing of 13 staff positions, the positions of campus minister and director of discipleship will be combined into a single role.
Southwestern President Brad Andrews said that the adjustments are necessary for the college in Winfield, Kansas, southeast of Wichita, to reach a balanced budget and to achieve the financial latitude for future investment in the college.
“We are in the middle of a 20-year chapter of Southwestern College’s story,” Andrews said. “A chapter that began with the recession in 2008, since then the landscape for institutions of higher education has been shifting dramatically.”
Andrews explained that colleges and universities across the country have been coming to terms with a new and extended period of contraction for higher education.
“At Southwestern, we are facing these external challenges head-on, and we’re making the changes necessary to strengthen our position and secure our place for another 135 years,” said Andrews.
The Southwestern Board of Trustees, at its October board meeting, approved a proposed plan to balance the college’s operational budget by next year, toward a surplus budget by 2021. The enacted plan includes budget reductions and efficiencies, and a reorganization of administrative and staff responsibilities. While an effort to reduce staff and administrative positions began several years ago, Andrews announced Friday in meetings with faculty and staff that the college will open next fall with 13 fewer staff and administrative positions. Seven of the positions eliminated are currently unfilled and will be left open. The remaining six positions will be eliminated through the non-renewal of existing contracts.
“These are extremely difficult decisions, and they have real implications for our community and for people who we care about,” Andrews said. “We felt it important to let the individuals who currently fill those positions know as soon as possible, and we will honor the contracts of those who are impacted through June 30, 2020.”
In total, the college has reduced administration and staff positions by 13% since July 2015.
“We are doing the difficult and necessary work to face the external pressures that every college is encountering right now,” said board chair and alumnus Kim Moore. “We have made remarkable progress to grow enrollment and cut expenditures over the past four years and the trustees are proud of that progress. The Board and administration are committed to achieving regular balanced budgets, to get to a place where we have the capacity to regularly increase our investment in the future of the college. We can’t be successful at that if we’re not living within our means today.”
In the past four years, Southwestern has experienced a 31% growth in enrollment. The college’s main campus enrollment of 612 full-time students is a modern record.
The 13 campus employees whose positions were eliminated include the Rev. Ben Hanne, whose work as campus pastor will come to a close at the end of the semester.
“I would like to express my deep gratitude to Ben for more than four years of tremendous service to Southwestern College and the Builder community,” Andrews said.
Hanne shared his appreciation for the opportunity to serve and minister to the campus community.
“As I reflect back on my time at Southwestern, I am especially drawn to the memories of students who have experienced transformation and renewal in the face of major challenges and terrible loss, as well as our amazing faculty and staff, who have shown me such kindness,” Hanne said. “I am grateful to the rest of our ministry team here at Southwestern who will continue their faithful work in the years ahead.”
Andrews expressed the college’s continued commitment to providing for the spiritual needs of students. and a vision for the growth of campus ministry in the years and decades to come.
“As we return to campus in January, our weekly chapel program will continue without interruption, and we will continue to provide for the pastoral care and counseling needs of all of our students,” said Andrews. “I look forward to the future of campus ministry at Southwestern in the coming years and decades and remain committed to growing this fundamental strength of SC as we grow our college.”
The Rev. Molly Just, director of discipleship at Southwestern, will assume leadership of the campus ministry program and will be the point of contact for students as they seek spiritual support and resources. Just, an ordained United Methodist elder, is a 2012 graduate of Southwestern, a 2016 graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, and is currently in the process of becoming certified as a spiritual director, studying with the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison. Just has served in ministry at Southwestern since 2014.
“I am passionate about the work of walking alongside others to recognize the presence of God in every moment,” Just said. “My work in this new role will be supported by an incredibly strong community, on campus, and in Winfield. There are so many who are willing and able to provide support and care for our students as they continue in their spiritual formation.”
Southwestern is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and will continue forward with two ordained elders working on campus. Additionally, a diverse team of faithful faculty and staff will continue to mentor and support students through worship arts, theological study, and student success programming. Southwestern remains home to the Richard and Julia Wilke Institute for Discipleship, The Summit Youth Academy, and Amp It Up Camp among many other ministry programs.
“I look forward to the many ways our college and our students will continue to respond to God’s call –through our ministry to one another on campus and as our students go out to make the world a more loving place,” Just said. “I’m grateful to Rev. Hanne for his work and I’m grateful too for the opportunity to minister to our community here at Southwestern.”
-- Southwestern College