ALBANY — It has frequently been stated within the pages of this paper that one of the best music scenes in the nation resides here in the Capital District. That may be no more.
Last week, the College of Saint Rose kicked a hole in the speaker and pulled the plug on three of its music program’s four degree programs, a near jettison of one of the best curriculums in the country.
“It is no secret that weighty financial challenges are pressing on colleges and universities throughout the country,” said Marcia White, as the interim president announced how the school’s board of trustees slashed nearly $6 million in expenses.
The college currently offers 109 undergraduate and graduate degree programs and advanced certificates and has 3,774 undergraduate and graduate students and a total budget of $71 million. According to a school press release, the cuts stand to impact 10 percent of undergraduate students and 4 percent of the graduate students enrolled at Saint Rose.
“We are being proactive by making hard decisions now, as painful as they are, said White. “These decisions are necessary to the long-term future of Saint Rose and come as part of a series of difficult choices we have had to make this year in order to have a balanced budget by 2023.”
Current students enrolled in these programs will be able to finish their degrees and will receive individualized degree completion plans. No new students will be enrolled in the programs scheduled for closure.
The cuts targeted programs the school observed as declining or showing historically low enrollment. Other degree or certificate programs were eliminated because the school said the cost to maintain them was higher than the revenue generated by enrollment.
Earlier this year, the college made $8 million in administrative and staff expense reductions including layoffs, salary reductions, and freezing the staff pension plan.
The program closures will eliminate 33 of the college’s 151 full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty positions in December 2021. In addition, eight full-time visiting faculty on annual contracts will not be renewed.
“These changes mean the loss of academic programs that are of high quality, valuable to society, and a significant part of the college’s history. Sadly, after much thought and extensive analysis, we have made the determination that we can no longer afford to maintain them,” White said.
“To every single student and faculty member affected by The College of Saint Rose’s outrageous decision to cut multiple music/art programs, my heart goes out to you,” stated recent graduate Josh Morris on social media.
Morris, and his Hasty Page bandmate, Zane Agnew both earned their degrees this spring. The three-man band has been a popular fixture in a local music scene one ValuePenguin.com study named No.6 in the United States as being among the best for music fans.
Saint Rose was indirectly named among the reasons behind why Albany’s Capital District ranked so high. Factors used within the study included musicians, venues and music education degrees.
“At the end of the day, education is the core of any musical endeavor,” wrote Morris. “The amount of knowledge and inspiration I have gained from my music teachers over my four years at Saint Rose is incomprehensible, the knowledge itself is invaluable, and the memories made will remain unforgettable.”
White and other administrators labored over the last several months to develop an expense reduction plan. Discussions included the importance of maintaining the integrity of the college’s educational mission while taking the steps needed to ensure the college’s financial stability.
“We need to build a stronger base – one where operating expenses and revenue align – in order to meet current challenges in higher education and the challenges yet to come,” said Jeff Stone, chair of the Saint Rose Board of Trustees.
Shortly after Saint Rose announced its cuts, an online petition emerged on change.com. As of Saturday evening, nearly 4,000 people signed their support.
“Today, Saint Rose told us that they don’t believe in music,” stated Doris McKinney, who created the petition. “It’s clear the institution doesn’t understand the gravity of what it’s lost.”