The changing dynamics of graduate education and a crushing budget deficit have caused Medaille College to shift gears and announce the closing of its Amherst campus at the end of this semester.
College President Richard T. Jurasek said that the school will consolidate its instruction on what he calls Medaille’s “mother campus” on Agassiz Circle beginning in September. In presenting the school’s annual financial state of the college report Tuesday, Jurasek said the school, which has an annual budget of close to $60 million, had a deficit last year of $2.2 million and was projecting similar numbers for the coming year.
He predicted that closing the Amherst campus, which is in leased space on Wilson Road, would save close to $1 million annually in operating, lease and maintenance costs alone. He also said the school will be instituting a hiring freeze and will freeze its operating budget.
In addition, the school’s 250 staff members have been notified to expect some layoffs as the school combines its facilities.
“Between now and June 1, there will be fewer people working at Medaille, and from June to next year, there will be even fewer people working at Medaille,” Jurasek said.
However, he added that the exact nature of the cuts has not been decided, as the school begins to “transform” its instructional structure across the campus.
Medaille has had a presence in Buffalo for more than 100 years, but only opened its Amherst site in 2007, catering largely to older students enrolled in its graduate programs for business and education degrees.
“Enrollment patterns justified it then,” Jurasek said. “But it turns out that between 2007 and 2014, almost across the country, the academic domain that became most stressed was education. Also, before the Great Recession, employers almost always were willing to pay for their employees to get their MBAs. That boost has disappeared.”
Meanwhile, he said, in the stressed economy, fewer teachers are retiring, so fewer new teachers are getting their master’s.
“The education system is in absolute gridlock, so the reasons we had for creating the Amherst campus are gone,” he said.
With healthy undergraduate enrollment – it has about 2,700 students – and a small but growing online instructional component, Jurasek is optimistic about the college’s future on its Buffalo campus.
“This is going to be a good move. It’s going to save us money, and it all sleeves together,” he said. “With the undergraduates, the physical plant is at maximum use from 8 to 3:30 p.m., and the other campus is focused on week evenings and weekends. Now, the physical plant will be used to the maximum all the time,” he said.
He pointed out that Medaille recently completed between $8 million and $9 million in upgrades to the Agassiz Circle campus.
“The adults who have been out in Amherst in a very functional space will be coming back to a real campus vibe that makes the learning experience so invigorating,” he said.
Medaille also operates a small Rochester campus and Jurasek said that at this time the college plans to keep it open.