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More than faculty exempt from voluntary resignations

CLINTON, Iowa – Ashford University employees in Clinton have been given the option to voluntarily resign as the organization reduces its workforce.

Many Ashford University employees in Clinton, with the exception of faculty and those in certain other departments, were told they could voluntarily resign, according to Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of public relations for Ashford’s parent company, Bridgepoint Education.

Information provided earlier by Ashford officials incorrectly stated that only faculty personnel would be exempt from the voluntary resignation package. The other departments exempt in Clinton were not released by officials.

The for-profit university employs approximately 400 people in Clinton, including faculty and those in the other exempt departments. Ashford officials would not comment on how many employees they aim to cut.

Employees were notified Wednesday and given a short period to volunteer for the program.

Those resigning will receive three months of their base salary in severance. Benefits also will be available to resigning employees who are currently enrolled through Aug. 31.

Clinton Regional Development Corp. Vice Chairman Steve Howes would like to believe the employment reduction will not have a permanent impact.

“Loss of jobs is always a hard thing for any community,” Howes said. “Hopefully this is a short-term loss that we can make up in the future.”

Ashford officials said the reduction in workforce program was designed around a strong commitment to academic quality, student success and operational results, while optimizing the institution for a lower total student enrollment.

“The bottom line is that this is needed to better align Ashford’s personnel resources with its enrollment activity,” Rodriguez wrote in an e-mail to the Herald.

Total student enrollment at Bridgepoint Education’s academic institutions, Ashford University and University of the Rockies, was 78,782 students on March 31, 2013, compared with 94,863 students at the end of the first quarter of 2012.

New student enrollments for the first quarter of 2013 at Bridgepoint Education’s academic institutions were approximately 13,300 compared with combined new student enrollments of approximately 24,275 for the same period in 2012, according to Bridgepoint’s first quarter earning report.

Ashford experienced a $28 million dip in revenue during the first quarter of 2013 when compared to the same period in 2012, falling from $250.4 million to $222 million.

This round of workforce reductions is not the first of the university’s efforts to cut staff. Clinton employees were unaffected in September when Ashford cut 450 employees from the San Diego, Calif., and Denver offices.

The San Diego-based university has been under scrutiny from its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, since being denied initial accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges last June.

WASC officials noted, among other items, that 31 percent of Ashford’s spending is allocated to student recruitment, which they noted was relatively high when compared to resources dedicated to support academic quality and student success.

The university is currently on notice with the HLC because it does not have a majority of its operations in the 19-state region under the HLC’s jurisdiction, which includes Iowa.

Ashford officials re-applied and are waiting for an accreditation decision from the WASC, the regional accrediting body that covers institutions in California where Ashford maintains a substantial administrative and executive presence and where a majority of the institution’s students are based.

If denied accreditation by the WASC, Ashford would need to move the bulk of its operations into HLC territory in order to maintain accreditation.

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