Stephens optimistic as FPU restructures for success
Fresno Pacific University is restructuring student care and recruitment as well as business practices in the face of serious enrollment and revenue declines. These actions will strengthen the university’s economic position and its mission to develop students for leadership and service through excellence in Christian higher education.
Where we find ourselves
Fall 2022 enrollment was 3,029 traditional undergraduate, bachelor’s degree completion, graduate and Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary students, a 14% decrease from last year. This lowered tuition revenue, FPU’s major source of income, resulted in a projected deficit of $7.4 million for 2022-23.
FPU’s challenges are faced by many other colleges and universities: smaller numbers of traditional-aged students, economic insecurity, lingering pandemic effects and doubt by some about the value of a degree. Enrollment in bachelor’s degree completion programs, FPU’s largest student group, has also been affected by declining community college enrollment.
While many decisions have been difficult,
there is already cause for optimism.
- Spring 2023 enrollment saw only a 3% decline between the fall and spring semesters, well below the previous two years.
- Traditional undergraduate applications for fall 2023 are up 78%.
- To help ensure current students graduate, FPU created the position of chief retention officer, appointing Kerry Sue Brown, director of student success services.
- End-of-year giving was up 32% over last year.
- The university is working with outside professionals in enrollment, financial aid and advancement.
“We have seen significant efforts from many program directors, faculty and graduate recruiters that truly paid off,” said President André Stephens, Ph.D. “We will continue to work strategically with internal and external partners to develop and implement a financially viable roadmap for our future.”
Faculty and staff positions
The process of eliminating positions announced in fall 2022 has been completed. Decisions were guided by enrollment; costs in relation to revenues; the need for general education faculty; positions critical to recent and future investments, core to the university’s religious mission or with a high potential for growth; and national, state and regional data. With these considerations in mind, several areas were exempted from faculty layoffs: Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, undergraduate biblical studies, the School of Natural Sciences and the Visual and Performing Arts Division.
- Eight longtime faculty chose to participate in a Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program.
- Eight vacant faculty positions will not be filled at this time.
- Five other faculty positions were discontinued.
- No majors were eliminated.
- The M.A. in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies program will continue as it has since its reorganization in 2020, as an individualized major and as a minor. The two full-time faculty positions were among those eliminated and courses will be taught by faculty from a variety of relevant areas.
- Recruitment will continue for open faculty positions in biology, business-accounting, chemistry, computer science, physics, nursing, mathematics, media studies and criminology.
- Affected faculty have been informed their contracts will not be renewed after June 30, 2023.
- Sixteen staff positions were eliminated through attrition and reorganization.
This is a stressful time, Stephens acknowledged, but these changes put the university on a good track.
“I came to FPU because I believe in the power of education, specifically Christian higher education, to form and transform the lives of individuals who attend our institution,” he said. “Amidst all that is happening, we serve a God who is bigger, better and stronger than our circumstances—may we live in the confidence
of that truth!”
Read a more detailed statement at fpu.edu/optimism