Academic Restructuring FAQ – Dec. 5, 2023

Why is Hesston College (HC) changing from a two-year to a four-year academic model?

It has become increasingly clear over the past decade that Hesston’s education model is not financially sustainable. This is in large part due to the many credits students are bringing with them out of high school, the reluctance students have about transferring after their sophomore year and the inability to compete on price at the two-year level. The need for this shift is even more evident as each of our historically strong prospective student markets have experienced declines. These include regional Kansas students, Mennonite and legacy students as well as adult learners. Despite the unique design of the two-year Hesston Experience, this change is necessary in light of these stated challenges.

What programs are being discontinued and what is the breakdown of first-year students affected?

Updated Jan. 8, 2024
The slides presented to faculty and staff on Nov. 8 indicated 22 first-year students would be affected by the program cuts. In double checking those numbers and changes to affected programs, we identified one additional student. Below is a complete list of affected programs and the numbers of affected first-year students associated with each of the programs.

  1. Athletic Training – 6*
  2. Communication – 0
  3. Elementary and Early Childhood Education – 3
  4. English – 0
  5. Exercise Science – 3*
  6. History – 0
  7. Physical Education – 2
  8. Pre-Law – 1
  9. Pre-Physical Therapy – 3*
  10. Psychology – 2
  11. Secondary Education – 2
  12. Social Work – 1
  13. Sociology – 0
  14. Spanish – 0
  15. Sports Ministry – 0

Total = 23 first-year students

*Faculty are exploring the option of a bachelor’s degree in health science. If approved, the 12 students currently enrolled in either athletic training, exercise science or pre-physical therapy will have the option to shift their major to this four-year health science degree or transfer after their sophomore year.

Why were these programs selected for discontinuation?

In response to the current financial situation, which is multi-year deficit budgets, the vice president of academics (VPA) analyzed a variety of information sources and data spanning the past 10 years, including credit hours generated by each program and enrollment information. The VPA also created a faculty task force composed of five faculty members from a variety of programs to provide input and respond to various scenarios as part of the process of developing recommendations for layoffs. Based upon their input, the VPA brought recommendations to the Administrative Council (AdCo). AdCo then presented a final scenario to the board, and the board decided to eliminate the transfer programs listed above.

Are all faculty positions in these programs being eliminated?

No. In some cases program closures resulted in faculty layoffs, while others resulted in changes to faculty loads.

What employee cuts actually happened and what is the timeline?

Updated Jan. 8, 2024

  1. Five staff members were told on Nov. 7 and 8 that their positions would be affected immediately, however, they will continue to receive compensation and their current benefits package through the end of December 2023. The position eliminations affected the academic office, audio-visual and theater set design, international admissions and the library.
  2. Seven faculty and one staff member were informed on Nov. 7 that their positions would be discontinued at the end of the academic year (May 2024). We wanted to inform these persons as soon as possible in an effort to provide them time to find a new job, which within academia, jobs are typically advertised early in the spring semester. Even though communicating these shifts as early as possible has created some anxiety and a lack of clarity with regard to what courses will be offered next fall, we prioritized early communication with our employees over having each course detail worked out. This work will continue as we move through the academic year.
  3. Three positions within theatre, music and physical education were adjusted in some way, but remain. These individuals received this communication on Nov. 7. Changes to these positions will take effect in the fall of 2024. Each of the persons presented with an adjusted job description has been given the option to accept the new position, decline it or collaborate with the VPA to explore an alternate option. As of Jan. 8, two have accepted the updated positions and one is still deciding.
  4. The 13 eliminated positions will be discontinued. All of these positions are linked to an organizational restructuring and were not linked to personnel performance issues in any way. We communicated to each employee that HC would be happy to provide positive references and recommendations as they pursue other employment opportunities.
  5. Information was communicated to the campus community on Nov. 10 relaying the number of immediate cuts. It would be ideal to also share with the whole campus community what positions are being eliminated in May. However, due to care for people’s privacy, best practice in HR and legal counsel, we are unable to share that list. As you know, we always share with HC employees when someone resigns. However, given that people did not resign, the communication timeline and process is different. We acknowledge the awkward reality that this creates on campus. However, personnel matters are up to individual employees to communicate. Their reality is their story to tell, including whatever details they want to include and on a timeline that best suits them. As people share their reality with you we encourage you to find ways of showing support and care for their unique situation. We all, as a campus community, are losing people we care deeply about, who are great at their jobs and who have positively impacted our students.

It’s not on the list of discontinued programs, but I heard visual arts will also be cut. Is this accurate?

No. The visual arts faculty position actually increased for the 2022-23 academic year from .75 to one full-time equivalent (FTE) position. There are no plans to reduce course offerings in this area. New art space is being renovated on campus in Laban Peachey Center to accommodate related courses. These courses are popular elective options, continue to promote a liberal arts approach to education and help live out the institutional value of creativity.

Will any associate degrees still be offered?

Updated Jan. 8, 2024

  1. Yes, we will continue to offer Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) degrees in liberal arts. The Associate of General Studies degree (AGS) is still under review.
    HC’s reality will no longer include recruiting students into the associate degree tracks. Instead, they can choose to receive an associate degree as a value add, while on their path toward a bachelor’s degree at HC.
  2. We will not be able to offer certain major-specific courses and electives that do not align with our bachelor’s degree programs, hence the streamlining of programs.
  3. The Academic Directors and Chairs Committee determined the following “majors” will continue to be offered in their current forms as A.A. or A.S. degrees in Liberal Arts.
    1. Accounting
    2. Art
    3. Aviation
    4. Bible and Ministry
    5. Biology
    6. Business
    7. Chemistry
    8. Computer Information Technology
    9. Computer Science
    10. Criminal and Restorative Justice
    11. Economics
    12. Engineering
    13. Engineering Technology
    14. Environmental Science
    15. General Studies
    16. Health and Medical Occupations
    17. Music
    18. Mathematics
    19. Physics
    20. Sports Management
    21. Theatre
  4. The A.A. and A.S. degrees will be offered in preparation for one of HC’s bachelor’s degrees and might also transition into minors which could be pursued alongside one of HC’s bachelor’s degrees. Currently, professors and academic administrators are working on establishing minors for the fall of 2024 within the fine arts department.

Will students still be able to take courses in program areas that will be discontinued?

Foundational general education courses will still be offered; however, some major-specific electives will no longer be offered. For example, the history program is ending, but some history courses will continue to meet general education requirements. For any of the 25 current first-year students whose major was affected by these changes, HC will cover the cost of taking major-specific courses through Acadeum, a consortium of education institutions offering online education, for the 2024-25 academic year.

What do we say to prospective students if we no longer offer the program they are interested in?

We recognize that by offering fewer majors it may prohibit some students from choosing HC. However, our goal is that by clarifying our message and offerings it will enable us to attract more students within our primary bachelor’s degree programs. Here are two recommended responses:

  1. Optional Response #1: Hesston continues to offer Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees. Some major-specific courses are no longer available; however, we still offer a liberal arts general education within all of our degrees. Going forward we will primarily focus on offering bachelor’s degrees in areas linked to the professional industries of aviation, business management, engineering and healthcare.
  2. Optional Response #2: If Hesston doesn’t offer the program you’re looking for, unfortunately, we are not the best option for you and we wish you all the best in your college pursuit. In the event you change your mind and become interested in one of our programs, we will gladly help you make the transition to Hesston.

What four-year programs will be added?

Three additional bachelor’s programs are being explored by the faculty, but need to go through the full approval process. If approved, we hope to begin communicating these options to students in February 2024. After this initial round for fall of 2024, the goal is to continue to add new bachelor’s programs to meet student and industry demand.

  1. Health Science
    This four-year program can serve as a pathway for students in the following programs:

    1. Athletic Training
    2. Exercise Science
    3. Physical Education
    4. Pre-Physical Therapy
  2. Pre-Med (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine – DO)
    We are pursuing a partnership for a DO program with a medical school in Wichita. This would grant our graduates a seat in their DO program if they meet qualifications.
  3. Sports Management

What is the timeline for full integration of the academic changes?

There are no academic changes to the current school year, allowing all of our sophomore students the ability to graduate in May with their intended major and with all of their course requirements met. The academic shift will be implemented by the fall of 2024.

How will these changes affect a student’s academic journey?

  1. There will be NO changes to the spring 2024 curriculum and course schedule, so sophomores who plan to graduate in spring 2024 will not be affected.
  2. Even though we are closing various areas of study in our two-year programs, we will continue to teach general education courses in multiple subjects. First-year students whose major is ending but want to stay at Hesston next year need to meet with their academic advisor before the end of this fall 2023 semester to get enrolled in as many major-specific courses as possible for the spring 2024 semester. This will help ensure students are able to graduate prepared for their goals.
  3. In the event the student and their advisor are not able to identify enough major-specific options this spring, first-year students will need to decide if they want to remain at Hesston and graduate with a more general program of study or choose to transfer to another institution after the fall 2023 semester or after the 2023-24 academic year.

What support services or resources are available to students who are affected by the changes?

Updated Jan. 8, 2024

  1. The academic office identified 23 students who will be affected by these changes and is in direct communication with each of them. The academic dean requested individual meetings with these affected students to address their specific needs. We will offer alternate major options at HC to these students, as well as provide individualized transfer assistance to help them transfer to a school that can better meet their specific academic pursuits.
  2. For any of the 23 current first-year students whose major was affected by these changes, HC will cover the cost of taking major-specific courses through Acadeum for the 2024-25 academic year.

How will students be informed of adjustments or updates related to these changes?

  1. Students received an email immediately after faculty and staff were informed on Nov. 8. Students affected by the changes have received additional correspondence from the office of academics.
  2. Students were also invited to a town hall meeting on Nov. 8 with the vice president of student life and vice president of academics where they were given the opportunity to learn more about the changes and ask questions. The academic office will continue to connect with students as needed. The student life office has also made themselves available to help students navigate this news.

Will tuition increase more than normal because we’re moving to a four-year school?

  1. While the typical tuition increase has been around 3 percent in recent years, the increase for the 2024-25 school year will be a 5 percent increase due to inflation.
  2. As always, if this increase threatens the ability of a specific student to remain at HC, please let financial aid know so they can work with the student to find a solution.

Will Hesston close?

  1. No. We’re simply taking steps to get back on track financially. These changes are part of a larger plan to ensure the long-term viability of Hesston College.
  2. Hesston is at the same point as many colleges that are also discontinuing under-enrolled courses and programs. As an example, within the last year other Kansas Independent College Association (KICA) colleges like Newman University and Southwestern College, Mennonite affiliated colleges like Fresno Pacific and even state institutions like University of Kansas have experienced program closures. In addition, Hesston has very little debt and has $1.8 million in the unrestricted endowment. Based on this information and annual audit data, this puts Hesston in a better position than some small colleges in Kansas.

Is performing arts going away?

Updated Jan. 8, 2024

  1. No. The November 2023 announcement indicated performing arts would shift from an academic program to an activity model, meaning only major-specific electives would no longer be offered. However, the office of academics announced Jan. 8, 2024, that the music and theatre programs will continue, yet will still see the reduction of one faculty member in each area as well as adjustments in course offerings and sequencing.
  2. Beginning with the 2024-25 academic year, music and theatre will be offered as minors to enhance the student experience for those seeking bachelor’s degrees. Students seeking associate degrees will also be able to major in music or theatre.
  3. Activities within performing arts, such as choirs, choir tours, private lessons and theatre productions have always been a part of the college’s long-term plans and were never included in the original announcement of closures. Performing arts scholarships will also continue to be offered.

Hesston has prided itself in the past on having readily transferable credits, will that change?

  1. Yes. Hesston will now be focused on transferring students into Hesston. Transferring students from Hesston into other institutions will no longer be our priority.
  2. We are working to create articulation agreements with community colleges in Kansas to improve the ease of transferring into Hesston College.
  3. We are also exploring partnerships with KICA colleges. For example, we are currently working with Tabor College on a nursing partnership that would allow Tabor students to get a Hesston College nursing degree.

What makes Hesston unique under this new model?

  1. Moving forward, our academic profile will sharpen with unique professional programs like engineering, nursing and aviation, which many private schools in Kansas and across the Mennonite Church do not offer.
  2. We aim to be more distinct by offering majors that are not as easy to find at other liberal arts colleges, while remaining committed to being a liberal arts institution. This provides students with some of the most popular majors in the country, while also offering them a faith-based, liberal arts academic option for pursuing programs like engineering – which is primarily only found at state universities.
  3. As a two-year college with a long history of offering the “Hesston Experience,” we are well positioned to provide a transformative and foundational experience within the first two years. We will extend this experience across the junior and senior years, differentiating ourselves from other four-year schools that naturally give more attention and priority to the junior and senior experience.

Will the culture or identity of Hesston College change because of the reduction in programs offered?

  1. Hesston College educates and nurtures each student within Christ-centered community, integrating thought, life and faith for service to others in the church and the world. This is our mission and that is not changing.
  2. Our mission, vision and values and who we are as a college is expressed through our programs, not by which programs we offer. This develops through personal relationships between students and their professors, as well as specific staff and fellow student connections. We want these strong relationships to continue.
  3. Hesston College was originally founded as a four-year school, but was adapted to a two-year school in the late 1920s. We have adapted before and we can adapt again. We recognize that adaptation requires culture shifts at some level, which are never easy or painless, but possible if we are able to pull together as a community.

It has been said that HC offers bachelor’s degrees in “professional programs.” What does “professional programs” mean?

  1. This refers to programs that have a clearly defined path toward professional employment. For example, students within our aviation program are likely pursuing a career as a pilot. Their path is clear and leads them to an industry that has well-paid jobs waiting for them. “Professional degrees” are in-demand bachelor’s degrees that offer majors students and industry are asking for and well-paying jobs upon graduation.
  2. Offering professional degrees does not mean we can no longer be a liberal arts college. Our general education curriculum will continue to provide a liberal arts foundation, and our bachelor’s degree programs prioritize educating the whole person. For example, local hospitals find high value in our nursing graduates because they have a holistic approach to nursing that goes far beyond simply providing technical expertise.

What is the projected enrollment with this academic shift?

  1. Our goal is to grow enrollment back to a historic and sustainable level (470) as soon as possible by clarifying our message in the market and establishing excellent and unique four-year academic programs. This will not be an overnight process, but we have taken an important first step on that trajectory.
  2. As we navigate the many steps on the trajectory to grow enrollment, we are also working to increase long term institutional sustainability beyond enrollment. For example, we are partnering with a grant writing firm to assist us in securing grants that will enable greater support for programs, infrastructure, etc. We continue to keep our donors informed so they can easily identify ways they can walk with the college and directly support initiatives that connect to their life or passion (faith formation, an academic program, a sport or activity, a family scholarship, improving a campus building of which they have special memories, etc.) We also are working to secure applied learning work agreements with area industries, which will provide a new stream of revenue to support the mission of the college that we have not had in the past.

What is the process for providing feedback or asking additional questions?

Please email the president’s office at Questions will be forwarded to the appropriate department or individual.


How much is being cut from the budget via reduction of employees?

  1. The HC Board of Directors mandated $800,000 be cut from the 2024-25 budget. The program and personnel reductions account for $765,000 of that request.
  2. Immediate personnel reductions resulted in a $65,000 cut from the current 2023-24 budget, which will result in a $130,000 cut for the 2024-25 budget (included in the $765,000 above).

Besides staff cuts, what is being done to address budget concerns?

  1. We are looking into multiple options for budget cuts including less travel and improved utilities management. Kansas Independent College Association has aided in these conversations and provided access to vendors who will do shared purchasing. These types of budget reductions are ongoing processes.
  2. We are exploring additional revenue sources including external business contracts linked to applied learning, as well as partnerships with other schools to share revenue and expenses for additional program offerings.
  3. We have also identified and made contact with a grant writing partner who has the expertise to assist HC in identifying and securing considerably more grant funding than we have applied for or realized in the past.
  4. One-time revenue sources totaling $2.6 million also helped reduce the deficit for the current budget year. This included land sales, pandemic related grant and tax credit relief, one-time donor gifts, unrestricted estate gifts and unrestricted endowment draws.

Hesston College recently auctioned off farm ground west of campus. Are any other asset sales being considered?

  1. Most off-campus properties owned by Hesston College, including Stutzman Retreat Center, additional farm land west of campus and some of the houses on Main Street already have been or will be sold.
  2. There are two properties near campus that the college will keep. These include the two houses directly south of Hesston Mennonite Church (known to many as the guest house and the Diener house). These two properties are the closest to our campus. The other properties are extremely nice to have, but are not crucial to delivering Hesston College’s mission or ensuring a nice entrance to our campus.
  3. The long-term plan is to tear down the Diener house, which is not habitable in its current condition. This will also provide a clearer sight line into campus.
  4. Dyck Arboretum of the Plains will not be sold or divested.

How will program sharing with the other colleges be beneficial?

  1. We will market our aviation, engineering and nursing programs to colleges that don’t offer them. The partner colleges recruit from a different pool of prospects, increasing HC’s program exposure. Students will have a student life experience at the partner college all four years, while receiving academic credit from HC during their junior and senior year.
  2. These partnerships will also work in reverse. For example, partner colleges who offer bachelor’s degrees we do not, can also provide Hesston students with the academic credits needed to complete a bachelor’s degree while remaining a Hesston student all four years.
  3. Students would be fully aware of the arrangement on the front end and opt in to the commuting reality these arrangements will require.