Saint Mary's University to eliminate 11 undergraduate programs in response to declining enrollment

The school said new program portfolio will focus on business, technology and the sciences.

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WINONA — Saint Mary’s University announced Tuesday that it was phasing out 11 undergraduate programs as part of an academic consolidation and strategic re-focus in response to COVID-19 and plummeting enrollment.

The liberal arts college said the undergraduate majors to be phased out, all of which suffer from under-enrollment, included: Actuarial Science, Art, English, History, Human Services, International Business, Music, Music Industry, Spanish, Theatre and Theology.

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The school said that 13 full-time faculty will be laid off as a result of the changes starting in the 2023-24 academic year. Students currently enrolled in these programs will be able to complete their studies in those programs.

“The time to re-envision our future is now,” said Saint Mary’s president Father James P. Burns. “In this climate, few schools can continue business as usual.”

School officials said the pandemic, declining enrollment and lower birth rates all were factors in the decision to restructure the university’s program offerings.


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Americans attending college has fallen by 1 million. Researchers are predicting the total could rise as high as 3 million over the next 10 years due to declining birth rates, according to a statement from SMU.

In Minnesota, total undergraduate enrollment has plunged by almost a third to levels last seen in the late 1990s, according to the State Office of Higher Education.

Saint Mary's officials said the college will focus its program portfolio in three areas: business, technology and the sciences. A revised general education core curriculum designed to support retained majors will continue to foster skills sought by employers in communication, processing and analytics, ethics and organizational development.

“We are aligning the programs we offer with our mission as we answer the question: How can we best prepare our students for work, for a life of ethical service, to pursue the greater good and the truth in all things while answering their questions about meaning and purpose?” Burns said. “The goal is for our graduates to excel in their early career, become future leaders in their fields, and use their special gifts to impact humanity.

“Just as our Catholic nursing program, launched in fall 2021, responded to student, industry, and societal needs, we will continue adapting and responding to change.”

The announcement came three days after SMU held a commencement for graduating seniors at its Winona campus. Students were notified of the changes on Tuesday.

Saint Mary’s University enrolls nearly 5,000 students between its undergraduate campus in Winona and through its bachelor completion and graduate and professional programs located in Minneapolis, Rochester and offered online as well.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or
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