Christian Brothers University to cut $4M from budget to address deficit

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Dive Brief: 

  • Christian Brothers University, a Roman Catholic institution in Memphis, Tennessee, plans to cut $4 million from its operating budget to plug a deficit caused by declines in enrollment, on-campus occupancy and credit hour production. 
  • The university said it declared financial exigency, which refers to a severe financial crisis that can lead to layoffs of tenured faculty members. Christian Brothers said it set up a committee that will determine how many faculty will be terminated should that become necessary.
  • Under university policy, entire departments or academic programs may be eliminated during times of financial exigency. The university said students enrolled for the fall 2024 term will be able to complete their programs even if those programs are eliminated. 

Dive Insight: 

Christian Brothers is one of many small private colleges struggling with enrollment-related budget holes. The university’s headcounts started falling around five years ago.

In fall 2017, the university enrolled 2,157 students, according to federal data. By fall 2022, that number had dropped to 1,934 students, a roughly 10% decline. Moreover, Christian Brothers said it didn’t meet its enrollment targets for first-time, first-year students for fall 2023.

Christian Brothers racked up a $2 million deficit in fiscal 2022, with $75.1 million in expenses compared to $73.1 million in revenue, according to tax documents. 

That deficit is projected to reach up to $7 million by the end of 2024, the university said.

“We have reached a critical time for our University if we wish to continue this work for another 150 years,” Christian Brothers said in a statement. “We must restore our financial viability and reallocate our programs and resources to provide the promise of college that our mission requires.”

Budget and staff cuts haven’t been enough to remedy the issue over the past few years, officials said an FAQ posted online. 

A Christian Brothers spokesperson did not answer several questions Monday about the college’s current enrollment and what kind of cuts university officials anticipate. 

“Because we are so early in the process, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time on any particular estimated, anticipated, proposed or rumored actions that might be taken. We’ll share more information as we have it related to final decisions,” the spokesperson said via email. 

Christian Brothers plans to establish a Retrenchment Committee to recommend cuts to the university’s president. The panel will include two faculty members elected by the faculty body, one governing board member and other officials. 

The university said it will not cut or reduce current students’ academic scholarships, though it will evaluate whether to slash its athletics programs. 

Christian Brothers officials said the university is not closing. 

“We are taking these extraordinary actions to ensure that CBU continues as a flourishing and prosperous four-year establishment for the foreseeable future,” it said in the FAQ.

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