Fresno Pacific University cuts 16 programs

School president says realignment is necessary to restore the university’s financial health

Fresno Pacific University signage near the main entrance on S. Chestnut Ave. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published November 15, 2023  • 
2:00 pm

FRESNO – Citing decreased enrollment of traditional-aged students, the pandemic and rising costs, Fresno Pacific University (FPU) is eliminating 16 programs, including its undergraduate biblical/theological studies program, and reducing its teaching staff.

In a press release, FPU President Andre Stephens, Ph.D., said, “We are in a dynamic and complex time in higher education. A season that calls for courageous leadership to face the historic challenges and emerging opportunities before us. A season that calls us to renew our imagination and cast our vision to see the students of the Central Valley and beyond achieve their dreams. Our renewed focus must be on providing an excellent, holistic, biblically-integrated education.”

AFFECTED STUDENTS/PROGRAMS

Eighty-students – roughly 3% of the 2,912 students enrolled for the 2023-2024 academic year – are affected by the action. According to the FPU release, these students will be offered classes and resources to complete their degrees on schedule.

Undergraduate programs set to be eliminated are arts administration, biblical and theological studies, chemistry (both B.A. and B.S.), graphic design, mathematics (both B.A. and B.S.), applied mathematics, philosophy, political science, pre-law, Spanish and theater. The computer information systems degree under the bachelor’s degree completion program is also being eliminated.

Graduate study programs set to be eliminated include M.A. programs in sports administration and theology and Old Testament.

FPU notes that courses in many of these programs will be available to students to fulfill general education requirements as well as requirements for other fields of study.

AFFECTED FACULTY

Eleven faculty members – roughly 10% of the school’s 109 regular faculty members – will lose their jobs at the end of the school year in June 2024. Another 12 positions that are currently open or will become open due to retirement will not be filled.

“We realize these changes are painful and involve people who have dedicated their lives and careers to support FPU. We pray for the beloved colleagues who are affected by these changes. We are forever grateful for their kingdom service at Fresno Pacific and for the enduring contributions they have made to the lives of our students and alumni,” said Stephens.

PANDEMIC

Wayne Steffen is Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations at FPU. Steffen said FPU is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. He mentioned the degree completion program, which is now on the cutting block.

“For the last few years, this has been our largest program,” Steffen said. “It is geared for people who have had a couple years of college. They’re working; they have family responsibilities.”

Steffen said the program was particularly affected by the pandemic because the mandates to stay indoors, to stay at home, dramatically impacted how the individuals in the program could remain in the program.

“We lost a lot of students in that program,” he said.

Steffen also mentioned the domino effect the pandemic had on enrollment.

“Community colleges suffered (from the pandemic) and they didn’t have enough graduates coming out,” said Steffen, “so that meant there were as many people coming into the (degree completion) program.”

CONSOLIDATION, ATTRITION AND COST

Currently, FPU has five schools – the School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Natural Sciences, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and the School of Humanities, Religion and Social Sciences. The proposed academic realignment, which intends to streamline academic procedures, will fold the five schools into two – Arts and Sciences and Graduate and Professional Studies.

One reason for this consolidation is the attrition of FPU’s student body. Despite a recent resurgence in enrollment, since 2020, the university has struggled with a declining student population. According to the release, over the past three years, FPU has lost over 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students, which, of course, is directly related to the pandemic.

This situation is not unique to the university, however. In the fall of 2021, 15.4 million students enrolled in undergraduate degree programs in the U.S. – the lowest fall enrollment since 2006. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, just over 14 million undergraduate students enrolled in spring 2023 classes.

Not only that, but the price tag for a four-year college education everywhere in the nation is exorbitant. In the press release, FPU noted that “increasing doubt by some about the value vs. cost of a four-year degree” has led families to question the wisdom of sending their children to college.

FPU does offer financial aid to offset costs. For students who do not qualify for financial aid, yearly tuition is steep. For the 2023-2024 school year, tuition for a full-time student – 12-18 units – is $35,548. Room and board is another $10,000.

For the sake of comparison, for a California resident living at home, the tuition at UC Davis is about $32,600. For a student living on campus, the annual cost is just under $42,000.

According to Fresno State, for the 2023-2024 school year, the total annual cost for a full-time student living at home is about $22,500. A student living in the dorms can expect to pay $23,750. These costs are for California residents. The costs are higher for nonresidents.

 

Darren Fraser
Reporter