RICHMOND — The pandemic is hitting Earlham College in Richmond hard.
The private school, which dates back to 1847 and has about 1,000 students, is making major budget cuts, eliminating jobs and some sports teams.
With enrollment and expenses severely impacted by COVID-19, President Anne Houtman said Earlham will make $7.6 million in budget cuts for the next fiscal year, eliminate 34 jobs, restructure 27 others, and suspend the golf and tennis teams.
“I don’t have to tell you that we are facing a perfect storm of an unprecedented nature — deficit spending for several years, now exacerbated by COVID-19, which has upended our enrollment projections and significantly added to our deficit,” Houtman said. “New student enrollment for the fall is half what we modeled for and built our budget around, and that goal was conservative before the pandemic struck. It is imperative we act now, both to reduce our current deficit and ensure Earlham’s future.”
The college will observe its 175th anniversary in 2022. “We simply must make the hard budget decisions that will ensure Earlham’s survival for another 175 years,” Houtman said.
Houtman, who came to Earlham one year ago, said she directed that savings be identified across the board in areas that would not negatively impact the classroom experience, the centerpiece of an Earlham education and what she termed “our greatest strength.”
Budget decisions were further guided by Earlham’s top priorities, which include developing a sustainable financial model after years of deficit spending that was funded by the school's sizeable endowment—a situation the new president has been charged to correct.
“I remain confident that we will weather this storm and we will right our financial ship, emerging stronger,” she added. “Earlham’s future will be secured, but the passage will be rough."
The Earlham Athletic Department will suspend the men's and women's golf and tennis teams, leaving the school with 15 sports.
"These changes will give our department the greatest opportunity for long-term success in the face of the financial challenges that Earlham College must address, due to years of operating at a deficit and the additional costs created by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Julie Kline, associate vice president and senior director of athletics. "We are committed to providing the best possible experience for the young men and women who compete for Earlham College, and to competing for championships at all levels in our remaining 15 sports programs."
Earlham is a member of NCAA Division 3, which requires schools to have at least 12 sports.