Students in a lounge in the CSU Student Center
Credit: Annie Gonyea
Students at Cleveland State University will have less choice in their studies moving forward as the university moves to "right size" its offerings as part of a plan to deflate a ballooning deficit.

CSU axes 20 programs, suspends 22 others

Cleveland State on May 1 announced it was cutting or suspending dozens of programs as part of a plan to “right size” the university. The union representing faculty says it is alarmed by the development.

Cleveland State University announced May 1 it was discontinuing 20 programs and suspending 21 others.** Multiple sources on campus have said that staff were being told they were being let go.

The separate but related moves are part of what the administration is calling the need to “right size” the university to address its ballooning deficit. Given the university’s first moves to balance the budget, a better term for “right sizing” would be “downsizing” as the university is expecting a further decline in enrollment and no substantial growth in student numbers for the next several years.

In an email sent to faculty and staff, Provost Nigamanth Sridhar, Ph.D., said the administration had decided to "discontinue" 20 programs and pause 21 (see the pdf at the bottom of this story for the full list). No explanation was given for the cuts or the choices the administration made, but the provost said it was is done in conjunction with "faculty experts in their respective areas." The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the Levin College of Public Affairs and Education were particularly hard hit.

“I think that (what) we do all the time is to continuously look at our academic programs and program offerings," Sridhar added in a virtual address to the university community the following day. "The faculty at this institution have been so incredibly innovative and forward thinking, over the last, year and a half or so.”

The need to “right size” CSU was announced April 3 by President Laura Bloomberg, Ph.D., in an address to the faculty senate. President Bloomberg cited CSU’s current deficit of around $20 million, and noted that it was expected to grow to $40 million by 2029 unless steps are taken to address the imbalance between revenue and expenditure.

One source of revenue is enrollments, which have been plummeting over the past several years and are not expected to stabilize before the end of the decade in the 13,000 range, well short of the 20,000 envisaged in the ambitious CSU 2.0 revamp of the university championed by the previous administration and endorsed by the board of trustees.

By law, Cleveland State University is required to balance its budget. The current administration has blamed COVID and national trends for CSU's problems. But a closer look at CSU's own actions or lack thereof in recent years would seem to be warranted, given the sudden urgency of the situation.

“Of course, this is quite alarming,” CSU-AAUP President Andrew Slifkin said in an email to The Cleveland Stater. “There are many other ways in which costs can be saved across the university. Pausing or eliminating programs should not be the main means of cutting costs; cutting academic programs should be a last resort: Academics are central to – and the main purpose of – CSU’s mission.”

Slifkin added that the union “played no role” in the university’s decision to cancel or pause the 42 programs and has voiced its concerns to the administration about developments.

Beyond the email and public forum, the current administration has declined to comment further on the programs being cut or paused, and what it means for faculty and staff in those programs. The administration has offered a buyout to qualifying faculty and staff, but has already started letting staff go and has told faculty that the university needs to shed dozens of teaching and research jobs to bring faculty numbers into line with student numbers.

The Cleveland Stater reached out to faculty senate president Anup Kumar, Ph.D.  for comment on the impact the administration's moves could have on faculty, but has yet to hear back.

** Attached is the full list of programs being discontinued or paused at CSU. The list has 42 programs, in contrast to the provost's email, which said 41.