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Saint Mary's University of Minnesota has announced it will be cutting 11 academic programs and laying off more than a dozen staff as it narrows its focus "to better position itself financially for long-term sustainability and success."

The Lasallian Catholic liberal arts college in Winona says it continues to see "increasing competition for fewer students," and as a result it's consolidating its academics to focus on business, technology, and the sciences.

This will mean over the next few years it will cut 11 majors, most of which are in arts and humanities, which it says have been "under-enrolled." They are:

  • Actuarial Science
  • Art
  • English
  • History
  • Human Services
  • International Business
  • Music
  • Music Industry
  • Spanish
  • Theatre
  • Theology

The college says the change will impact 13 full-time faculty members beginning in the 2023-24 academic year.

"The time to re-envision our future is now,” said Father James P. Burns, Saint Mary’s president. "Higher education is experiencing major disruption, exacerbated by the pandemic and declining number of high school students. In this climate, few schools can continue business as usual."

"We want to provide students with programs that are in demand, have a high potential for growth, and that many want to pursue now," he added, saying the move has been to better prepare its students "to pursue the greater good and the truth in all things while answering their questions about meaning and purpose."

Father Burns notes that the institution is responding to "student, industry, and societal needs" much in the same way it was when it launched its Catholic nursing program in fall 2021.

Of the layoffs, he said: "Having to lay off high quality faculty is a true loss and will be felt across the university. Decisions that impact the lives of our faculty are difficult and are not made lightly. We are grateful to all of our outstanding employees for their service and for the care and concern they have shown our students."

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Colleges across Minnesota have been battling to attract students from a declining pool, with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education finding that total undergraduate enrollment has declined by almost a third since the late 1990s.

The Star Tribune last month reported an increasing number of higher education institutions offering more and more scholarships to lower the cost of college for students from both Minnesota and out-of-state.

Saint Mary's says its general education common core curriculum will be switched to focus on business and the sciences as "employers clearly state they have a real need for excellent skills in areas such as communication, processing and analytics, ethics, and organizational development."

The institution has around 5,000 students between its Winona campus, as well as its other locations in Minneapolis and Rochester.

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