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University of Toledo to slash spending 7% for next fiscal year budget

12 coaches worked with thousands of students, steering them to resources and keeping them on track.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Editor's note: A previous version of this story noted 20 coaches lost their job. The correct amount is 12.

Budget cuts, low enrollment and layoffs are problems many universities currently face. The University of Toledo is no different as the university has laid off its staff of success coaches.

Members of the university's Center for Success Coaching said they were completely blindsided when they heard the news last Thursday. Now, they are figuring out how to move forward as the university figures out its spending.

Twelve staffers, including Justen Bowser, are left without a job at the university as officials look for ways to cut the budget by 7% for next fiscal year. 

The center, which provides personal, professional and academic help, also helps direct students toward other resources on campus.

"Out of left field, no one expected it," Bowser said. "I know there's been budget meetings as early as last month as we've been told explicitly, we were fine, that they weren't even looking at cutting us."

In a statement to WTOL 11, the university's vice president of marketing and communications, Meghan Cunningham, said:

"UToledo is moving away from the current success coach model and working to better coordinate existing initiatives and identify a new system of robust and connected academic advising and student support programming."

Bowser helped start the graduate-coach program last year. The coaching program for undergraduate students has been around for a decade, he said.. 

Many coaches like Bowser are graduate assistants. They relied on their salaries to help pay for their own education. Now they will have to find another gig elsewhere.

"As we start moving into the fall all positions are already filled so that's not something we are going to be able to look into for ourselves," Bowser said.

Bowser said the coaches helped a total of around 15,000 students in both graduate and undergrad programs. The coaches worked to build trust with the students to push them towards other resources.

"I hope and pray that they recognize the impact that removing both the center for success coaching and the graduate success center will have on their students, retention of their students and even enrollment," Bowser said.

The university has recommended other support services for students, including academic advisors, the Center for Advocacy and Student Experience, Rocket Solution Central, Counseling Center and Career Services.

However, Bowser said the relationship success coaches have built trusting relationships with students that will be hard to replicate. 

"That trust facilitates the hand off to those resources whether it is the counseling center or career services or something along those lines," Bowser said.

University officials are continuing to finalize the budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The university board of trustees is expected to vote on that budget at their June 22 meeting.

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