Updated: Sep 16, 2020
In late December of 2019, Rhode Island College announced “Vision 2020,” a multi-year, four-phase plan to encourage academic excellence, diversity and inclusion on campus and combat declining enrollment and revenue. According to the RIC Strategic Plan, the college is “operating in a resource constrained environment,” which can be largely attributed to the decrease in support from the state government and declining enrollment. Moreover, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent drop in enrollment threatening colleges and universities across the country, RIC saw a worse than projected decrease in enrollment for the Fall 2020 semester.
From 2015 to 2019 RIC saw a drop in enrollment of nearly 1,000 students. According to numbers released by RIC in mid-August, this semester alone, RIC’s enrollment decreased from 6,500 in 2019 to just 5,665 students this year. Furthermore, RIC has become increasingly reliant on tuition and fees to address continued fiscal needs, this has led to an increase in tuition and decrease in financial aid.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a trend of increased operating costs and declining enrollment. On August 20th, RIC announced that the college would be taking extraordinary measures to combat a projected $10.4 million deficit for FY 2021. These measures include executive pay cuts, staff reductions, continued hiring freezes and the closure of the Henry Barnard School next year.
A press release on RIC's website claims that more than 30 new vacancies due to retirements and other attrition have been created since this past May as well as 28 from the year before. In addition, RIC also plans to reduce its adjunct faculty budget by nearly 50% for this academic year after nearly three straight years of declining adjunct employment. Salaries for the president, vice president, associate vice presidents and deans were also slashed ranging from 10% for President Sanchez to 7.5% for deans. RIC also expects to announce another round of layoffs this month.
Mikaila Arthur, chairman of RIC’s sociology department told The Providence Journal, “We’re running so lean that a 15% cut will have devastating consequences. We’ve lost a number of faculty to retirements that we can’t replace. Our budget for adjuncts was cut by 50%. Some first-year courses are completely full.” Arthur also stated that as reported by data from the State Higher Education Officers Association, Rhode Island ranks 45th per capita in public education support.
In a statement addressing the budget cuts, RIC President Frank Sanchez stated, “The pandemic and its unprecedented impacts have triggered one of the biggest fiscal challenges in Rhode Island College's 166-year history. As president, my job is to make the difficult decisions that will enable the college to continue accomplishing our core mission, which is to provide a high-quality, affordable college education and the opportunity for a better life to generations of students in Rhode Island and beyond.”