RIC to close Henry Barnard School, lay off workers amid $10M budget gap

RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE will lay of workers, cut salaries and close Henry Barnard School at the end of the academic year due to a $10 million budget gap, the school announced on Thursday. /COURTESY RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island College will lay off workers, cut pay for high-level executives and shutter an elementary school on its campus in an attempt to close a projected $10.4 million budget gap, the college announced.

College President Frank D. Sanchez in a statement released Thursday night said the pandemic has posed one of the biggest fiscal challenges in the school’s 166-year history, exacerbating existing budget woes caused by declining enrollment in recent years.

Enrollment is expected to drop again by 10% in the upcoming semester.

For the last three fiscal years, RIC has staved off a combined $13.7 million deficit by reducing operating costs, lowering financial aid, restricting travel, freezing overtime, limiting hiring and raising tuition. The fiscal 2021 budget gap, however, swelled from an original $4.1 million to $10.4 million amid lower enrollments and the potential for no increase in state aid – although the state’s fiscal 2021 budget has not yet been finalized – forcing what the school called an “unprecedented’ 15% cut to operating expenses.

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Among them are staffing cuts, including reducing up to 50% of the college’s adjunct faculty, while leaving nearly 60 already-open positions unfilled. As of July 1, executives, including the president, vice presidents and deans, saw their salaries cut by 10%, 7.5% and 5%, respectively.

RIC also anticipates announcing a round of layoffs in September.

Henry Barnard School, an elementary school operated by the college, will close at the end of the upcoming academic year due to both financial and “programmatic” challenges, RIC said. The elementary school, which charges between $12,000 and $16,000 in annual tuition for its elementary and preschool programs, according to its website, has run a combined $4.4 million loss over the last three fiscal years amid an estimated 40% enrollment drop.

Additionally, the experimental model on which the school was founded – serving as a laboratory for the college’s teaching candidates – is no longer considered an educational best practice, the release stated.

“Facing the prospect of sustained million-dollar-plus deficits at HBS that divert funds from the institution’s core mission, the college concluded that continued losses from the operation of HBS cannot be sustained,” RIC said.

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