Emory & Henry College, a historic private liberal arts institution in Washington County, Virginia, is looking to the future as it enacts some employment cuts and changes on campus.

President Jake Schrum admitted during a conversation with the Bristol Herald Courier that even he’s upset with the seven position eliminations and three early retirements, but he said they’re necessary as the college moves forward.

Schrum said the landscape for pure liberal arts colleges is challenging, adding that the future doesn’t look bright for many small institutions across the country.

With nearly 300 employees, E&H has had to make some changes, including position cuts, to balance the budget, Schrum said.

Jennifer Pearce, vice president of marketing and communications, said E&H is “preparing for its next 182 years of meeting the higher education needs of the region and having more students join our ranks of more than 10,000 alumni.”

As part of the strategic process aimed at embracing the college’s future with a balanced budget, Pearce said the administration recently accepted some early retirements; moved to an outside management firm to handle facility operations while maintaining all those employees; reduced some faculty positions for 2019-20; and expects health insurance premiums to increase.

Emory & Henry would have a “huge problem in the future” if changes aren’t made now, Schrum added.

The college has had to find $3 million in cuts to its $42 million annual budget.

“We’ve lost basically seven people,” said Schrum, noting that those employees have one year to find another job.

The cut positions will also receive transition grants to help pay for expenses.

The college is also using National Management Resources to manage facilities.

Many colleges use third-party firms to outsource food and facility services, Pearce said.

“What we’ve learned from outsourcing our food services is that great cost efficiencies can be made when it comes to supply ordering, operations, shared equipment needs, rental needs, et cetera. … We anticipate the same will happen under a firm that manages multiple college campus facilities in our region.”

In addition, there have been some changes to benefits, such as an increase in health insurance premiums. In November, the college board will take a look at other benefits, such as retirement contributions.

E&H has had no cash flow problems, Schrum said, and the college endowment is doing well.

Schrum said he understands not everyone is happy about the changes. He added that he has met with faculty, staff and students, and he will continue to speak with them, as well as alumni.

“I think students know they can come see me,” said Schrum, who added that his email, phone and door are always available. “I don’t think they should be concerned.”

Schrum added that no salary cuts or furloughs have been made and none are expected at the college, which continues to grow. The school also has a line of credit that it hasn’t touched, he said.

Pearce said the changes are being made to embrace the success of the School of Health Sciences graduate programs and newfound interest in undergraduate health sciences and how they impact rural health care delivery. The college launched the School of Health Science program in 2014.

“The liberal arts will remain essential and core to our offerings,” said Pearce, who added that those at the college are preparing to meet new market demands from the students when it comes to experiences connected to work and successful outcomes.

She added that the college’s enrollment was up by 30 more undergraduate students this year and the School of Health Sciences has more applicants than it can accept at this time.

“It is self-sufficient and doing quite well,” she said. “We are working toward being more efficient with our overall operations while planning for greater enrollment and streamlined operations going forward.”

The college’s total enrollment is up 2 percent over last year, undergraduate and graduate, with a total of 1,246 students, according to figures provided by Pearce. Eight more students have already enrolled for the spring 2019 session.

rsorrell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2431 | Twitter: @RSorrelBHC | Facebook.com/robertsorrelltn

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