After an uneasy spring, The Evergreen State College is facing a decline in enrollment, a budget shortfall and a hiring freeze, according to a memo sent to faculty and staff.
As of mid-August, registration for the fall quarter was down 212 students compared to a year ago. Most of the decline was in out-of-state students, who pay more for tuition than in-state students, according to Evergreen officials.
Partly because of the decline, the college faces a $2.1 million budget shortfall out of a roughly $60 million annual budget and planned to impose a hiring freeze, according to the memo.
Evergreen was the scene of protests and threats this spring over allegations of racism and intolerance, pulling it into a national debate over free speech on college campuses.
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Northwest News Network reported on the memo last week, noting conservative news outlets were quick to link the enrollment decline to the protests. But in an interview with The Olympian’s editorial board on Wednesday, Evergreen President George Bridges said officials talked to prospective students after the protests.
“Only one half of the people they were speaking to had any idea of the disruptions that were happening,” he said. “That was shocking to me.”
Bridges suggested one factor for the enrollment decline could be a new cap on the percentage of out-of-state students in the University of California system, which could be keeping more California students closer to home.
He also said students seem to be gravitating toward larger universities with specialties like computer science and engineering.
“A general liberal arts degree seems to be a harder sell right now,” he said.
Evergreen officials expect the enrollment decline to continue in the 2018-19 school year, according to the memo.
Additionally, the college gave temporary layoff notices to 17 facilities workers in July after the Legislature failed to pass a capital budget. Many in the facilities staff are paid via the state’s capital budget.
Some of the layoff notices were rescinded. But without a capital budget, the memo said, “layoffs will become impossible to avoid.”
The fall quarter begins Sept. 25.