Walla Walla University to Adjust Workforce Amid Rising Employment Costs

Walla Walla University announced Wednesday night, Feb. 26, at a faculty and staff meeting that it will reduce its faculty and staff workforce as part of a broad-based effort to preserve the university’s financial position.

The reduction in workforce will be four full-time-equivalent positions by June 30, 2020. Employees impacted will be notified by March 12, 2020. Eleven additional full-time-equivalent positions will not be filled as a result of resignations and retirements.

“This reduction in force is painful for our entire university family,” said John McVay, WWU president. “However, as faithful stewards of an institution entrusted to us by our students and alumni, church community, and donors, we must take steps to ensure both the immediate and long-term financial health of the university.”

For nearly a decade, the university achieved positive revenue surpluses through strong net tuition revenue and operational savings initiatives, which enabled it to build reserves and earn its current composite finance index (CFI) score of 5.7 on a 10-point scale. (A score of three indicates minimal financial health, and scores approaching six indicate strong enough financial health to weather financial difficulty.)

However, despite two successive years of record-high, freshman class enrollment, the university’s employment costs are increasing at a rate higher than tuition and fee revenue. “We dipped into our reserves to offset this increase in costs, but this is not a sustainable solution,” said McVay.

Reductions are part of a university strategy, which will be complemented with other improvement initiatives to support ongoing efforts in order to effectively manage employment and operational costs, McVay said. This strategy will also include adjusting the university’s current areas of study and launching new academic programs to meet the projected demand from students and employers.

“We intend to lean into this difficult and strategic work to position the university for growth and economic stability for years to come,” McVay said. “Like countless faculty and staff before us, we’re deeply committed to delivering on the university’s mission both now and well into the future.”

Walla Walla University currently has 1,864 students enrolled across five campuses in the Pacific Northwest, including College Place, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Anacortes, Washington; and Missoula and Billings, Montana. The university employs 309 people in more than 287 full-time-equivalent positions.

This article was written by Aaron Nakamura, and originally appeared on the NAD website. Photo courtesy of the NAD website.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10259

Overall, it likewise not a viable strategy long-term, since it forces these Universities into a corner of ever-diminishing number of students in Adventist realm, given the trajectory of the ever-greying church composition, and the unlikely scenario of large number of millennials sending their kids to the same Adventist places they graduated from.

Why not expand the recruitment efforts, and open up the generic curriculum to non-Adventists in order to support the Adventist theological core?

Catholics were faced with the same problem much early on, and have done quite well with wide range of Universities that do just that. And they have grown to fame and
long waiting lists to get into these institutions.

Plus, it would expose many if these students with some aspects of Adventist faith and culture. I understand that it’s a lot of work, but it’s really not that big of a deal, given that the CG leadership will understand the cost and benefits and gets behind such change. It’s done just that with the hospital systems that have grown very well.

The students can’t afford the tuition and the school can’t afford the teachers. Quite a dilemma! Will the students of tomorrow agree to pay more tuition for less faculty?


Based on analysis it appears that they have a solid model and good cash flow. In my practice of business rescue (including University’s) you have to start with a robust analysis of what the core services you offer (source of revenue) and how these are delivered (source of expenses). While it is prudent to understand how people resources are applied and the corresponding costs it is certainly not the only type of expense that should be considered. Just cutting staff won’t achieve the results they wish and is a symptom of the level of thinking that is being applied.

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