Bob Jones University is reducing its staff by 50 people after it overshot its budget by $4.5 million, the university said in a statement.
The conservative, Christian university in Greenville said it spent more than expected “because of increased health care costs and a larger demand for student scholarships,” according to an emailed statement from university spokesman Randy Page.
“In academic programs where we have more faculty than needed, we have notified faculty that their contracts will not be renewed following the end of this academic year in May,” Page said. The other cuts, which resulted in immediate layoffs, affected IT, facilities and administrative assistants, Page said.
While the university cut faculty, primarily those who teach fine arts, it is reinvesting in the hard sciences, which have seen “tremendous growth,” Page said.
Page referred to the cuts as “reallocating resources to growth potential,” Page said.
The statement said the university also is adding new programs such as a French major, a bachelor of music composition degree, a “concentration” on civil engineering and a Ministry Studies program focusing on church revitalization.
“Bob Jones University’s board and administration are making the tough strategic decisions that are necessary in today’s rapidly changing higher education environment,” said Tim Hofferth, the chair of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, the state’s college oversight body. “Sooner or later, the vast majority of colleges in the state will have to grapple with the same difficult decisions, if they haven’t already.”
Between 2001 and 2017, Bob Jones saw undergraduate enrollment decrease by 26 percent, according to Commission on Higher Education data. It’s not the only school of its kind in the state to see lower numbers of students. Columbia International University, a Midlands Christian university, saw undergraduate enrollment decline 22 percent in the same period. Undergraduate enrollment at Southern Wesleyan University is down 33 percent, according to commission data.
Bob Jones reached peak undergraduate enrollment in 2007 with 3,650 undergraduates. In 2017, 2,606 undergraduate students attended the university.
“Obviously there’s been a lot of competition in higher education,” Page said.
Bob Jones has long been an institution for religious, conservative figures. In 2015, then-Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz spoke at a rally for religious liberty. That same year, fellow GOP candidate Ben Carson held a town hall meeting at Bob Jones University.