Gabi Salazar wants to be an event planner after she graduates from college.
To take a step toward that goal, the 2020 Pekin Community High School graduate attended DePaul University this past school year after earning an associate degree in business administration at Illinois Central College.
But it wasn’t the school year the hospitality leadership major expected.
“The program offerings for my major were smaller, classes that I needed to take were not offered, and three classes I signed up for were canceled because there weren’t enough students,” Salazar said.
Then came a shocking announcement this spring that DePaul was facing a more than $56 million budget deficit with personnel and academic cuts on the horizon.
That was the last straw. Salazar finished the semester at DePaul, the largest Catholic university in the country, and transferred to Bradley University.
She will major in hospitality management at the Hilltop in Peoria, but because of the complexities of transfer credits, she probably won’t graduate until 2025.
“I loved living in Chicago while I was going to DePaul, but it’ll be nice to live at home in Pekin while I’m going to Bradley,” she said. “And I must say the people at Bradley have been very helpful with my transition to go there.”
Last week, Bradley revealed it was facing a $13 million budget deficit. That wasn’t what Salazar wanted to hear.
“I’m a little worried, to be honest,” Salazar said. “There aren’t a lot of colleges in Illinois that offer a hospitality curriculum. Students like myself in the field may have to go outstate.”
Bradley President Stephen Standifird announced in a July 31 news release that the private school is looking at academic restructuring and cost-savings initiatives in response to the budget shortfall.
The academic restructuring, Standifird said, will include a detailed analysis of program offerings.
“We had hoped this would not be necessary,” he said. “However, due to our ongoing structural deficit, it is an unfortunate reality. This process will be conducted with utmost care to preserve academic integrity and ensure students’ ability to complete their degrees.”
The $13 million shortfall amounts to nearly 10 percent of Bradley’s operating budget. Standifird warned that the shortfall would continue in future years “if no measures are taken.”
In the news release, the university listed lower-than-expected enrollment numbers, changes in the economic climate and increasing operational costs among the financial challenges it is facing. The release said several similar factors are impacting colleges around the country.
Standifird promised transparency in Bradley’s cost-reduction process.
“Open communication will be a cornerstone of our approach,” he said, adding that input, ideas and feedback will be appreciated.
DePaul President Robert Manual announced in April a voluntary separation program for eligible full-time administrators and staff members. Out of nearly 1,400 full-time administrators and staff members, about 200 were eligible,
It isn’t known how many administrators and staff members participated in the program.
According to the latest figures available, Bradley’s undergraduate and graduate enrollment in fall 2021 was 11,176, and DePaul’s undergraduate and graduate enrollment in fall 2021 was 21,922, which made it the nation’s largest Catholic university for the 23rd consecutive year.