Georgetown College will cut about 20 percent of its faculty and end four majors to reverse a $4 million deficit at the Scott County school.
President Dwaine Greene announced to faculty and staff Monday afternoon what he called a "strategic renewal" over the next year. That includes ending majors in French, German, computer science and music by May 2015. That decision will affect several faculty.
In addition, employee and retiree benefits will be slashed. For current employees, the school's matching contribution for retirement accounts will be reduced temporarily. For retired faculty, the school will cut health benefits, a move that could save about $500,000 a year, spokesman Jim Allison said.
The deficit has continued for several years, but it worsened last fall when enrollment dropped by 100 students, creating a shortfall in tuition revenue at the private school. Total enrollment is about 1,100 students.
Allison said the faculty could be cut by 20 positions, although some already are vacant. About 12 staff positions will be lost, including some that are vacant
Greene, who came to Georgetown last year, was not available for comment Monday.
"What Dr. Greene found soon after arriving is that expenditures for the college far outweighed income," Allison said. "When he took a look at some academic programs, we didn't have a lot of majors in some of these areas. This is a way of increasing income by way of increased student enrollment."
Two relatively new programs that have attracted more student interest are criminal justice and sports administration, he said.
Allison said students might be able to take French or German classes, but they won't be able to major in those subjects. The administration will work with current students to ease the transition, he said.
Math professor Homer White said the announcement wasn't a surprise to faculty and staff, who have been aware of the school's financial problems.
"It's just about right from a financial point of view," he said of Greene's plan. "On the other hand, I think we're all aware of the possible long-term academic costs. Are we going to be able to maintain the same quality education, the same kind of focus on academics?"
Greene joined Georgetown last year after one presidential search was abandoned. Before that, William Crouch led the school for 22 years.
Small, private, liberal arts colleges face decreasing enrollment and financial challenges, said Gary Cox, president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities.
"It takes strong leadership, an understanding of the mission, and a laserlike focus on the mission and how to accomplish it," Cox said. "Small private colleges have to be nimble to succeed."
Last fall, Midway College in Woodford County announced faculty layoffs and benefit cuts after an 18 percent drop in enrollment.
Allison said it would be a long year at Georgetown, but "the main thing is we are not closing our doors."
Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.