Bradley University president defends proposed cuts to academic programs, faculty

Stephen Standifird
Stephen Standifird

PEORIA – As administrators at Bradley University finalize a plan to address a $13 million budget shortfall by discontinuing academic programs and cutting faculty positions, they are also working to upgrade offerings at the university to satisfy the needs and interests of today’s students, said BU president Stephen Standifird.

“The most important thing about enrollment is that we make sure we’re doing things that really differentiate the university. Are we offering programs of interest to today’s students? That's one of the key factors, and a big part of why we’re doing some of the things we’re doing,” Standifird said Monday during an interview with the Journal Star.

The bottom line is that the programs being considered for elimination are not as popular as they once were, accounting for only about 3.5% of enrollment at the university, Standifird said. They include Mathematics Education, Family Consumer Science Education, Public Health Education, Pre-K – 12 Administration and Leadership, Business Law, Manufacturing Technology, Professional Sales, Statistics, Religious Studies, Ceramics, Apparel production and merchandising, Hospitality leadership, Family Life Science, International studies, Printmaking, Actuarial Science, and Entrepreneurship.

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One recent effort to reverse flagging enrollment led to the improvement of digital connectivity for students. Providing a 5G-connected campus will help the university stand out among other universities, and potentially sway prospective students to enroll at BU over a competitor, Standifird said.

“In the fall of 2024, every student at Bradley will receive an Apple device with unlimited data connected to the 5G network,” he said. “It creates digital equity — there’s a significant number of students that, when they step off campus, they are no longer digitally connected. Now every student has fully unlimited data as part of their enrollment here at Bradley."

Another way to attract students is to have study programs appealing to the current generation, said Standifird.

“We are going to be launching a master's in data science and analytics, a very hot area of study to today’s students,” said Standifird. “Another program that we’re looking to offer is music for games. We have a great game design program, we have a strong music program — those two groups are coming together to create a degree that really focuses on music for gaming. These are the things we’re looking to identify, those things that we feel really resonate with today’s students.”

Standifird talked about the university’s plan in an effort to address concerns about the planned cuts, which faculty and staff learned about Nov. 6.

"During this process, we have found nearly 25% of Bradley University programs account for more than 75% of student enrollment," Standifird said in a letter to faculty and staff. "Regrettably, continuing down this path is simply not viable."

More: Academics are the heart of Bradley University. Make cuts elsewhere

Standifird said 47 filled jobs would be cut and an additional 21 faculty positions are being eliminated through attrition. The final decision about program and staffing cuts will be made by Dec. 6, but students enrolled in programs slated for elimination will still be able to finish them, even if they have several years to go, said Standifird.

“If you started a degree here at Bradley University, we are committed to help you to do that,” he said. “It’s really a phased process. It’ll probably be several years before we completely phase out each of these programs, and we’re doing that as a commitment to our students.”

Standifird defended the fact that no cuts are proposed for the university’s athletic department.

“We run one of the most efficient athletic departments in the country. I think we legitimately have the best athletic director in the country right now,” he said.

A well-run athletic department is a major asset because it brings national attention to the university, said Standifird.

“It is, in many ways, a window to the university, and it’s something I’m absolutely committed to continuing to do at Bradley University,” he said. “Our athletic program is something that people outside of the university see and pay attention to, and it creates a positive image for the university.”

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Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or Follow her on

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Bradley University president defends plan to cut academics and staff