Zoe Charles

Many institutions of higher-learning have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of financial prosperity. Oklahoma Baptist University is no exception from the trend with the school announcing cuts in Academic and Athletic programs over the past several months.

In an email sent out to students and faculty on November 6 the university announced the discontinuance of men’s golf, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s lacrosse.

According to the email, the cuts were made “[i]n order to address the long-term financial stability of the university, the Board of Trustees, at its Nov. 6 meeting, approved reductions impacting every area of campus. In line with the university’s overall budget proposal, the OBU Athletics Department has been asked to reduce its annual operating budget by approximately $3 million.”

The email went on to acknowledge the sense of grief surrounding these decisions, but ultimately stood by the decision saying “[w]hile these reductions are painful, we believe they are nonetheless necessary to the long-term financial health of the university in general, and the athletics department in particular. Maintaining a sustainable number of varsity teams will increase the viability and strength of our remaining programs and allow OBU to redouble its commitment to all-around excellence in intercollegiate athletics.”

It is important to note that all student athletes in the affected programs were offered their scholarships for the remainder of their time at OBU if they choose to stay.

Sadly, OBU is not the only school struggling amid the pandemic. According to The New York Times, “[a]s it resurges across the country, the coronavirus is forcing universities large and small to make deep and possibly lasting cuts to close widening budget shortfalls. By one estimate, the pandemic has cost colleges at least $120 billion, with even Harvard University, despite its $41.9 billion endowment, reporting a $10 million deficit that has prompted belt tightening.”

The article continued stating “Freshman enrollment is down more than 16 percent from last year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has reported — part of a 4 percent overall drop in undergraduate enrollment that is taking tuition revenue down with it.”

One model even predicted that the average university’s lifespan will be cut down by almost two decades as a result of recent financial struggles.

According to WBR.org, “[c]olleges were already facing headwinds. The college-age population is declining nationwide, and even more so in the Northeast. The pandemic has exacerbated those challenges. The model predicts that effects from the pandemic would reduce the lifespan of the average college by 22 years.”

While there is no way to accurately predict the future of OBU in the long-run, the university will drastically change in the coming years due to a restructuring of academic programs, some of which include certain programs being cut.

In an email sent out to students on Feb. 5 OBU said of these changes, “[t]his academic restructure is one of the steps OBU is taking to strengthen the university so we may come out of the difficult circumstances brought on by the pandemic as a stronger university for the future. OBU has a bright future with a very strong endowment that will continue to fund student scholarships along with many faculty and chair positions.”

The email also assured students that “[. . .] none of these changes will affect your ability to graduate within the program you have chosen.”

The email also claims that “OBU has a bright future with a very strong endowment that will continue to fund student scholarships along with many faculty and chair positions.”

This is important to note considering the fact that according to WBR.org, “[t]he bigger a college’s endowment, the less it has to rely on tuition and room and board. The colleges most at risk are those that don’t have big endowments and need that tuition and room and board to stay viable. On the spending side, many colleges are trying to keep their staff and faculty, and the first place they’re freezing spending is on capital projects: new buildings.”

According to the email sent by OBU, “[i]f you have any questions regarding our academic structure or degree programs, please reach out to a faculty member, your advisor, your college dean or Dr. Susan DeWoody, OBU Provost.”

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