MSU-Moorhead offers early retirement to dozens of faculty

It's time to call it a career (Bobak Ha'Eri via Wikimedia Commons)

Just when you think university finances might be stabilizing -- with the state pumping more money in to MnSCU this year -- Minnesota State University - Moorhead has announced a $4.9 million budget deficit.

And that means the university will offer early retirement to faculty members, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reports.

(Clarification: MSU-Moorhead spokesman David Wahlberg told me the university notified about 100 faculty that they're eligible for early retirement, but was hoping for about 35 acceptances. That's out of a faculty pool of about 400 full- and part-time professors.)

Campus officials say the budget gap is caused by a decline in enrollment -- 566 students between 2010 and 2013.  The latest enrollment figure is about 8,770, according to the MnSCU website, putting that drop at about 6 percent.

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(That's just a rough estimate, because that current enrollment figure may be a bit off. MnSCU CFO Laura King told me earlier this month that fall enrollment is down about 2 percent from last year's.)

Stanton (MN House / Andrew VonBank)

I spoke with Russ Stanton, director of government relations for the Inter Faculty Organization, the union representing MnSCU university professors.

He said enrollment is dropping in part because of the improved economy. A lot of the students who went to the university during the recession, he said, have since joined the workforce.

Stanton said he has heard of enrollment drops at a few other campuses, but hasn't heard of other early-retirement offers:

"Most campuses were planning pretty well [for a drop in enrollment] and adjusting their costs in advance."

Still, he cautioned:

"I think we're entering an era of declining enrollment ... particularly in the outstate area. Demographics play a role in northern and western Minnesota. Demographics aren't destiny -- it is possible to modify the results -- but they do have a big impact. We're seeing fewer people graduating from high school, so that traditional pool [of Minnesota college students] is declining."

I'm trying to get some more numbers from the Inter Faculty Organization.