Enrollment down, tenured faculty to teach more, health care administration minor terminated

by Matt Heller

Executive Editor

As of the mid-October census, there are 392 first-year students, and 427 new students including transfers. 

Graph by Matt Heller

While the administration had predicted low enrollment this year, this is the first time in recent history that an incoming first-year class has been below 400. While exactly 400 students were enrolled at the beginning of the school year, the school lost 8 students between then and when the census was compiled. This brings St. Michael’s total undergraduate enrollment down to 1,556 students.  

A class that is more than 50 students smaller than last year’s incoming class and 183 students smaller than 2014’s incoming class can also spell financial problems. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average yearly price a St. Michael’s first-year student who was awarded a grant or scholarship paid was $31,323 in the 2017-2018 school year. Multiplied by 51 students, this is nearly $1.6 million the school got last year but did not this year.   

Of the 3,967 total first-year applicants for the class of 2023, 83 percent were accepted for fall 2019. Only 12.1 percent of those who were accepted enrolled. 

Since the 2014-2015 school year, the number of faculty at St. Michael’s has been decreasing. This trend aligns closely with the decrease in total undergraduate enrollment. 
(Graph by Matt Heller)

Tenured faculty to teach increased course load 

Tenured faculty members will now be required to teach more classes. Associate and full professors with tenure [see “Tenure system explained”] now have a 3-3-3-3-3-4 load. This means over the course of a three-year period, these faculty members will teach three courses for the majority of the semesters, and teach four courses during one semester. This is an increase from teaching just three courses per semester.  

A faculty member can choose to teach the fourth course in a semester, or they can teach a summer, winter, or “SMC First Class” course, as well as faculty-led trip, to fulfill this requirement. 

Assistant professors who are not tenured will still teach a 3-course load per semester, and full-time instructors, who are not tenured, will continue to teach a 3-4 load.  

“In our financial situation, we need to do some things to cut costs everywhere,” said Jeffrey Trumbower, Vice President of Academic Affairs. 

Jeffrey Trumbower, Vice President of Academic Affairs, has been at St. Michael’s for over 30 years, experiencing firsthand changes in professionalism and students’ seriousness regarding career preparation. 
“You can’t have your reality be one thing, but the world looks at you as a whimsical place where archangels are flying around. We hope that the marketing message aligns with the reality of what people are experiencing in coming here,” Trumbower said. 
(Photo courtesy of Mark Tarnacki)

Trumbower said these increased teaching requirements are a final piece of work towards cutting costs. For example, a professor who teaches summer courses gets paid to do so. Now, every third year will count for the fourth course, meaning they will not get paid extra, saving the college money. 

Also with an eye towards reducing costs, scrutiny has been placed on courses that have an enrollment of fewer than six students. These courses will continue to count as a 4-credit course for students but will count as only 2 credits for a faculty member’s teaching load. Professors who consistently teach these low-enrollment courses will be exempt from the new 3-3-3-3-3-4 requirement.  

Department chairs and program coordinators receive monetary compensation and course releases for their administrative work. While this will stay true, there have been reductions in compensation, according to Trumbower. 

Additionally, some programs have reduced the number of classes they offer, and some have combined classes, all in an attempt to prevent a high number of low-enrollment courses.

Health Care Administration Minor

An unsuccessful search for a full-time professor to teach upper-level courses for the health care administration minor means the school will no longer offer the minor. According to Trumbower, students who are health science and public health majors interested in administration can minor in business. An elective for the business minor can be an intro-level healthcare administration course, a class that is currently offered.

Trumbower explained that health care administration professors can be hard to come by, as they often make more money in their profession than they would teaching.  

There are no current plans to reopen a search for a professor to teach the upper-level courses and allow the minor to be offered.

Tenure system explained

The change of faculty requirements applies to associate and full professors who have tenure. But what does all this mean?

Generally, a “tenure track” professor is hired as an assistant professor. They then go through a probationary period of about six years, at the end of which they can then apply for tenure. The tenure review is an extensive examination of their teaching and scholarship. If they get tenure, they have a position at the college as long as the program in which they teach is offered, with a few minor exceptions.

After a number of years as an associate professor, they can put together a portfolio and apply to become a full professor, which is an increase in money and status. Tenured professors undergo a fifth-year review, where they put together a portfolio and are reviewed by a committee including the dean of faculty and the department chair of the program they teach in.  

Adjunct professors are contract-based by the courses they teach. Adjuncts can teach no more than two courses a semester, but may teach a summer or winter course, totaling no more than five courses per year.

This is a revised version of the original article. It was originally stated that the Board of Trustees voted to increase faculty requirements. While the Board did discuss this during their October meeting, the final decision was an administrative action.