Southwestern Announces Elimination of Several Arts Programs, 8 Majors


Southwestern College in Winfield has announced the elimination of eight majors and two minors, due to low enrollments and personnel transitions.

According to a press release from SC Friday evening, the college initiated a process in August as governed by the institutional policy manual to review academic positions and programs. The work aimed to improve the financial footing of the college and to provide room for reinvestment in new programs and initiatives. The decision for program elimination was reached with the input of a special faculty committee, trustees, and administrators of the college.

In August, Southwestern announced it would be enacting a plan that would result in a $2.4 million reduction in expenditures for this fiscal year.

Timing of Friday night’s announcement was defined by the college’s policy manual with a request from faculty to notify affected parties prior to the college’s Thanksgiving break, SC says.

The eliminated programs include:

• Music (major and minor)
• Music Education
• Music Performance
• History and Secondary Licensure in History
• Theatre (major and minor)
• Musical Theatre
• Speech/Theatre Education
• Marine Biology

The college will continue to offer history courses as part of the general education program and as electives. Choral, instrumental, theatrical productions and all adjacent fine arts traditions will continue as co-curricular activities for students. Additionally, the college is launching a pep band in academic year 2023-2024.

Southwestern College President Elizabeth Frombgen

Southwestern College President Liz Fombgen, who was hired to succeed Brad Andrews in April, said she understands the regard these programs have in the community.

“I recognize that there is particular concern surrounding performing arts; while we may be moving away from degree programs in these areas, I am committed to maintaining creative expression through theatre and music as a pivotal part of the student experience at Southwestern College,” Frombgen stated. “It is my great hope that these disciplines and traditions will gain renewed strength and commitment with refocused energy and resources.”

Three of the affected faculty positions in the performing arts division will be transitioned to staff positions to facilitate theatre, choral, and instrumental performances on campus. The remaining faculty lines were eliminated through layoffs, planned retirements, or resignation. Layoffs and retirements for affected faculty will all be effective at the end of the academic year, in May of 2023.

“In the division of performing arts 10 students had declared one of the impacted programs, in History and Marine Biology 17 students are affected,” said Ross Peterson-Veatch, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. “Our staff and faculty advisors are committed to helping each student complete their studies at Southwestern or we will do whatever we can to help them find the next best step to achieve their goals.”

While new enrollment at the college has held steady in recent years, student retention has lagged.

Enrollment on the college’s main campus totaled 579 full-time students and seven part-time undergraduate students as classes began this fall.

The college has responded with a variety of initiatives focused on helping students stay and graduate. As part of that process, the college has been working with key constituents on campus and in the community to develop a strategic plan to guide the next five years.

The plan, which is on track to be published in January, will likely include the development of new academic programs on campus.

“These have been painful decisions to reach, none of which were made lightly or in a vacuum,” said Frombgen. “While we cannot cut our way to success we can position Southwestern for strategic reinvestment. Simultaneously, we can commit to new ways of delivering rich experiences to our students that honor our history and traditions.

“It is not always an easy path, but it is our path forward.”