The University of New Hampshire has notified 18 lecturers in its liberal arts college that their contracts will not be renewed, in what union officials are calling an unprecedented cost-cutting move.
Citing “a substantial deficit,” Heidi Bostic, the dean of the university’s College of Liberal Arts, notified the teachers in letters this week that their contracts would end in May and they would not be teaching in the fall. “With future programmatic needs foremost in mind, we have been forced to make some painful reductions and strategic realignments in teaching faculty,” she wrote.
The move caught many lecturers, who are still on winter break, by surprise.
“This is shocking,” said Catherine Moran, the president of the lecturers union at UNH. “It seems like a radical and dramatic cut.”
Nearly half of the teachers whose contracts are ending taught English as a Second Language, helping boost the speaking and writing skills of international students. UNH and many other colleges across the country have recruited full-tuition paying, foreign students over the years to help support their budgets.
But that stream of international students may be drying up.
A survey last year of 500 US colleges and universities found that the number of newly enrolled international students had declined by 7 percent on average. Fewer students from abroad are choosing US colleges as countries such as Saudi Arabia and Brazil cut back on scholarship programs for their residents to study abroad. Anti-immigrant rhetoric in the United States has also spooked young people across the globe.
The nonrenewal of some English as a Second Language lecturers is the result of a decrease in demand, Erika Mantz, a spokeswoman for UNH, said in a statement.
Mantz said the university was not laying off any employees.
These lecturers had three- to five-year contracts to work at UNH. Those appointments are coming to an end and won’t be re-upped. But Mantz did not elaborate on the deficit facing the university’s liberal arts college.
She said no other cuts are planned “at this time.”
“The university takes seriously the need to be fiscally responsible and to keep its programs competitive and of the highest quality,” she said. “We continually evaluate student and market demand for all of our programs.”
UNH enrolled more than 12,600 students in the fall of 2017, slightly above the previous year.
In-state tuition and room-and-board at UNH costs $29,000, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, ranking it among the top 15 most expensive, four-year, public universities.
‘We continually evaluate student and market demand for all of our programs.’
But UNH relies heavily on out-of-state students to fill seats, and the school saw its out-of-state freshman enrollment dip to 638 students in 2017, from 666 students the previous year, according to its data.
UNH also decided to let go of some of its lecturers because it wants some teachers to have higher degrees in their field, Mantz said.
But many of the nonrenewed faculty weren’t aware of the university’s desire for more professors with doctoral degrees and had their contracts extended numerous times in the past, Moran said.
“This search for prestige is apparently now more important to the university than providing our students with highly qualified, highly experienced teaching faculty,” Moran said.
Lecturers, who are full-time faculty but not on a tenure track, traditionally teach introductory or seminar classes.
The College of Liberal Arts has 115 lecturers, meaning this reduction will cull the ranks by nearly 16 percent.
Aside from the faculty who worked with English-language learners, UNH is not renewing the contracts of French, Spanish, and Arabic language lecturers, along with those who taught English, history, and political science.
The nonrenewals will not mean the loss of any programs, Mantz said.
It “will allow us to ensure our students receive the highest quality instruction,” she said.Laura Krantz of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.