ST. CLOUD - Outgoing St. Cloud State University President Robbyn Wacker is leaving her post this weekend — about two months earlier than planned — ahead of anticipated budget cuts that could be announced as early as next week.

Minnesota State Chancellor Scott Olson announced Wacker's departure Wednesday in a letter to faculty and staff.

"Wacker cares deeply for the SCSU community and has shared with me her concern that decisions about long-term operational changes should be made by leaders who will be there to manage the transition," Olson said.

Olson appointed Larry Lee, SCSU's vice president of finance and administration, as acting president effective May 5 "to usher the campus through the next two months and with Interim President-Designate Larry Dietz, lay the groundwork for the university's sustainable future."

In November, Wacker announced she would step down at the completion of her contract on June 30 after six years at the helm. In mid-April, Minnesota State named Dietz, who retired in 2021 as president of Illinois State University, as the interim president at SCSU. He'll serve a two-year term.

Wacker is leaving amid turbulence over budget cuts, faculty layoffs and a controversial partnership with a for-profit company to provide accelerated online classes. The first three accelerated online undergraduate programs — software engineering, general business and a registered nurse-to-bachelor's degree program — launched in January.

Last spring, Wacker announced steep cuts to two dozen faculty jobs and 70 academic programs amid a looming $24.5 million budget deficit, and said dozens more jobs could be cut in the next few years. Other possible cost-cutting measures include cuts to other staff, as well as administrators, and taking buildings offline.

SCSU leaders have attributed the chronic budget deficit to a steady enrollment decline that wasn't met with a similar reduction in staffing levels, as well as instructional costs that are the highest among the seven Minnesota State universities.

The university's annual operating budget is just under $200 million. The number of undergraduate and graduate students is about 10,130; the university saw its peak of 18,300 students in 2010.

"As you are aware, SCSU is facing financial pressures that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks, and I know these decisions can be challenging to a campus community and its morale," Olson said in the letter to faculty and staff.

Administrators are meeting with faculty about possible cuts Monday afternoon.

After announcing plans to step down, Wacker told the Star Tribune she wasn't planning on retiring and wanted to continue work in higher education. But she felt it was time to hand over the reins at St. Cloud State following successes in the strategic framework that has led to increased enrollment and retention rates through more diverse programming for learners at all ages and stages of their careers.

In his letter, Olson thanked Wacker for her service, calling her a "strategic thinker, a visionary leader, and an organizational innovator."

Wacker did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. In an email to SCSU faculty and staff, she said it's been an honor and privilege to serve as president.

She echoed Olson's note, saying "long-range decisions about SCSU's future need to be made by the leaders who will see the university through this transition."

She added that she is "supporting [Lee] to help the campus through the next two months. I know that [Dietz] and my leadership team will continue to build on the great work happening to ensure the university's sustainable future."