A lone person walks through the mostly empty parking lots at Humboldt State University on the first weekend of the Humboldt County shelter in place order due to COVID-19 on March 21. | Photo by Thomas Lal

HSU Projecting Grave Hit to Enrollment for Fall Semester

Freshman class projected to shrink, number of academic departments to be reduced

Freshman class projected to shrink, number of academic departments to be reduced

For the latest information, see our story here.

Update 11:10 a.m.: a second email sent yesterday from College of Natural Resources Dean Dale Oliver and obtained by The Lumberjack makes similar points but does not give a specific number to the expected enrollment drop for fall beyond noting that a 15-20% drop was expected prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. We will update this story when we have confirmed the numbers below. The second email is pasted below.

Humboldt State University has issued a budget directive to take immediate action to prepare for the fall semester, including the freezing of open staff positions and the reduction of the number of academic departments, according to an email sent to faculty and staff of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Tuesday morning.

The email, sent by Interim Dean of CAHSS Rosamel Benavides-Garb, projected a freshmen class for fall 2020 of around 500 students, down from around 1,400 students five years ago and down from around 1,000 students for fall 2019.

“The scale and impact of our current predicament is grave and as a result our budgetary practice has to be reconsidered and reformulated based on the simple equation of demand and resources,” the email said. “We have become, de facto, a much smaller institution, which compels us to undertake a comprehensive reset at HSU.”

The email listed six directives, including requests to freeze all vacant staff positions, reduce the number of academic departments and develop online programs for current and transfer students to complete their degrees.

The email promised to make the process consultative and sustainable.

“We remain committed to “the student first” approach,” the email said, “and are extremely aware of the critical importance, now more than ever, of issues of social justice, equity, and inclusion in all we do.”

The full email is copied below:

Dear CAHSS Colleagues,

On April 2, the deans of all three academic colleges received new administrative directives from Interim Provost Lisa Bond-Maupin regarding the coming academic year. The directives are a call to action, issued in response to the budget and recruitment/retention reality at HSU. The Interim Provost reiterated these directives yesterday, Monday, April 6 in her Provost/VPAA Report to the senate.

As we all know, our student enrollment has been declining for several years and the institutional budget has been negatively impacted. The administration’s efforts to address the problem must now be reframed in light of new and profound challenges the current COVID-19 pandemic poses for HSU, and the CSU system in general.

We are projecting a freshmen class of 500~ students across all three colleges. Five years ago, the freshmen class numbered 1,400+ students. The scale and impact of our current predicament is grave and as a result our budgetary practice has to be reconsidered and reformulated based on the simple equation of demand and resources. We have become, de facto, a much smaller institution, which compels us to undertake a comprehensive reset at HSU.

The Interim Provost has directed the three academic deans to reduce spending and grow retention/recruitment. Her directives require our college to implement the following action areas immediately:

1. Freeze all vacant staff positions: This is indefinite or until each college develops a plan to organize staff support within colleges and across colleges.

2. Reduce the number of academic administrative units (departments): This needs to be planned immediately and be in place for this next fiscal year so we are reorganized starting fall 2020.

3. Develop online degree completion opportunities for certain existing majors in the last two semesters of their programs.

4. Develop two-year degree online completion opportunities for transfer students of certain majors beginning fall 2020.

5. Develop a partnership with CEEGE related to workforce development, responding particularly to a post COVID-19 context.

6. Integrate the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) in the development and implementation of new teaching capacity.The Interim Provost has also indicated that she expects this process to be:

The Interim Provost has also indicated that she expects this process to be:

· Consultative with unit leadership.

· Consultative and collaborative across colleges.

· Sustainable by creating new retention and recruitment opportunities.

The deans of the three colleges have already begun discussing the directives. I have also initiated planning within CAHSS, in collaboration with the three associate dean fellows, and will continue to discuss budget with the chairs. We will move forward together, exploring multiple budget management opportunities to make our colleges strong and resilient in the face of present and future challenges. We can also regard these adjustments as unique opportunities to explore new and exciting programs to attract and serve our ever-diverse student population in a shifting and challenging workforce environment. We remain committed to “the student first” approach and are extremely aware of the critical importance, now more than ever, of issues of social justice, equity, and inclusion in all we do.

Sincerely and in solidarity,


Email from CNRS Dean Dale Oliver:

April 6, 2020

CNRS Faculty and Staff

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier today Interim Provost Lisa Bond-Maupin sent out her report to the HSU University Senate in preparation for Tuesday’s meeting.  Included in her report was a call for collective action to prepare for fewer students and fewer resources in the next academic year.  I’ve pasted the relevant section of the Provost’s report below my signature.

Current estimates indicate we could have 20% fewer students in Fall 2020 that we had in Fall 2019.  This reduction is significant, and we must plan over the next weeks and months so that those students who start or continue with us in the fall experience high quality, engaged learning that will prepare them well for STEM professions and advanced study.

Three items from the Provost’s report that I want to highlight are personnel, administrative re-structuring, and online education.

Personnel: Although we will be finishing out the two faculty searches currently underway, and ensuring we have sufficient temporary faculty to deliver our curriculum, all other hiring is frozen for the moment, including those which are currently vacant and those which will soon be vacant due to expected retirements. Through improving business processes, realigning and reorganizing staff positions, and targeting professional development we will find a way to support our educational enterprise without hiring additional personnel.  This work will be both necessary and challenging, and require collaboration with relevant unions and careful consideration of multiple factors.

Administrative restructuring: At the Dean’s level we were already planning a partial re-assignment for Associate Dean Rick Zechman to manage the marine lab while marine lab director Brian Tissot transitions from full-time director to FERP faculty.  We are also being asked to reduce the number of administrative units in the college, meaning that some departments will be merged or reformed.  This work will be done in close collaboration with the CNRS Council of Chairs and the other two academic deans.

Online Education: There are some programs in CNRS for which one of the following scenarios might make sense:  provide an online degree-completion option for a group of students who have a year or less left to complete their degree; provide a degree-starter program for a group of first year (or transfer) students to get started with HSU from home during the fall 2020 semester, and then begin on campus in Spring 2021; provide more online sections of general education courses for undeclared students or majors from outside CNRS.  For the moment, I recommend that faculty discuss within their departments whether one or more of these scenarios might be appropriate for their program.

For this week I am collaborating with the Provost’s office, with the other academic deans, and with a working group of CNRS Chairs to create possible models for administrative restructuring that can then be discussed among all of the CNRS chairs the following week.  Relatively soon I will also set up a mechanism by which input can be given from across the college.

We face a significant challenge as a college and university over the next few months and years, but I am confident that we will find solutions that serve our students and the citizens of California well.  My confidence rests solidly on the incredible talent, dedication, and creativity of our faculty and staff, whom I am proud to serve.

Best wishes, safety, and health to you and your families,

Dale R. Oliver, Dean

College of Natural Resources and Sciences

From Interim Provost Lisa Bond-Maupin’s report to HSU’s University Senate, April 6, 2020

Realignment of Spending with Reduced Revenue

In addition to supporting instructional continuity and Academic Master Planning, our division leadership is turning our attention to budget planning for next fiscal year and beyond. Prior to COVID-19, our enrollment picture for next academic year was apparently trending toward a 15-20% fall-to-fall (one year) student headcount decline. We were likely headed toward a reduction to the HSU budget for next fiscal year that was double that anticipated when the URPC created its annual budget recommendations to President Jackson.  While the college-going enrollment impact of the pandemic is unknown for all in higher education across the nation, it is clear that the CSU and HSU will experience further decline in student enrollment. Given the enrollment challenges felt across the state, it is likely that impaction at our southern campuses will be lifted. It is highly likely that more students will choose for financial and other reasons, in the shorter term at least, to remain at home or closer to home to study. 

While we await the release of up-to-date enrollment projections and budget information, Academic Affairs is implementing a few immediate strategies toward student retention and recruitment on the heels of the pandemic and toward further reducing our spending. As we do so, we are guided by the URPC principles and our own commitments to meeting the instructional needs of our students and protecting employment. In addition to continuing to adjust our academic offerings for Fall, immediate strategies also include: 

• Working with each dean and director to reduce budget allocations for FY 21 

• Freezing hiring in all open staff positions for now and planning to absorb staff attrition

• Working collaboratively with staff within and across colleges and budget units in Academic Affairs to reimagine and reorganize our staff support 

• Working collaboratively with department chairs and faculty to condense the number of separate academic administrative units in the colleges 

• Working within the Office of the Provost to realign and reorganize staffing

• Identifying academic programs ready to continue to offer upper division major courses online into next year and beyond to: a) help students in their final semesters to study from home and complete their degrees, and b) offer new transfer students an opportunity to complete their degrees online 

• Identifying a COVID-era retention specialist in Academic Affairs who will support the continued offering of all existing retention efforts in a virtual format and will work in collaboration with ODEI to implement inclusive retention practices at a distance. 

Each one of us will be implicated in and needed for this work. It is tough and unavoidable at this time. Each one of us has a very important role to play, now, more than ever in maintaining close connections with our students, helping them to problem-solve their educational needs and connect to resources and to stay connected to HSU. We need our students. And I think we are finding in their response to our transformed instruction – they need us. This powerful connection will ultimately move HSU through and beyond this tough moment in our collective history to the future we envision. Thank you.

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