Berea College to eliminate 39 jobs

Berea College is eliminating 39 full- and part-time jobs as it copes with huge losses to its endowment, which is the school's main source of funding.

A cut of 30-full-time jobs — including 21 vacant positions — amounts to about 5 percent of the 572 full-time positions at Berea College.

Nine part-time positions, six of which are vacant, will be cut, according to a statement released by the college.

Berea spokeswoman Julie Sowell said no program or department would be shut down because of the budget reductions for the 2009-2010 academic year, but she said details about specific job cuts weren't available.

Berea, which has about 1,500 students, provides financially needy and academically promising students with full scholarships. The school relies on its sizable endowment to cover 80 percent of its expenses.

The endowment fund tumbled from its peak of $1.1 billion in the summer of 2007 to less than $800 million this winter as the stock market dropped.

"Even though Berea College's endowment has outperformed the financial markets, the substantial decline in the market value of the college's endowment and the projected decrease in earnings have created significant challenges for the college," the statement said.

For more than 150 years, the college has accepted donations from benefactors to build up the endowment. Interest earnings from the endowment provides about $34 million of the college's $43 million operating budget.

College officials had forecast possible layoffs earlier this year as they noted that faculty and staff salaries make up about 70 percent of the school's expenses.

Those whose jobs are eliminated will be eligible for certain benefits and a severance payment though the college's transition assistance program, the statement said.

Despite the financial troubles, the school doesn't plan to shrink the size of next year's freshman class and is planning for 375 to 400 new students in the fall, Sowell said. Berea received 15 percent more applications this year than in the spring of 2008.