The University of St. Thomas is cutting 26 employees and leaving another 30 vacant positions unfilled as it joins a growing number of colleges that are facing budget gaps amid enrollment challenges.

University leaders told employees last week they hope the cuts will help close a roughly $10.5 million gap in the St. Paul's private school's budget for the upcoming year. The cuts represent just under 4% of the budget. The school employs about 1,500 people, including a mixture of professors, counselors, janitors and others.

In a statement Monday, the university acknowledged that it took "some difficult but necessary measures to address budget challenges for the upcoming fiscal year, due largely to headwinds affecting all of higher education."

Minnesota's public colleges and universities have announced cost-cutting measures in recent years, as have some other private schools, including Hamline University, also in St. Paul, and Bethel University in Arden Hills.

Colleges across the country are facing enrollment challenges. Birth rates dropped years ago, leaving them with a smaller pool of high school graduates to recruit from now. Many students are requesting more financial assistance after tough economic years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools' leaders say they're also seeing a growing number of students earn college credits while they're in high school, meaning they have fewer courses to take and less tuition to pay once they arrive on campus.

The University of St. Thomas has in recent years enrolled about 9,000 students, about 6,000 of whom are undergraduates and about 3,000 of whom are graduate students. News of the cuts comes several years after the university transitioned to Division I athletics. Construction is underway for a new arena on campus.

The university statement said: "No academic programs or faculty positions were eliminated as part of these reductions. All changes were made with care to preserve St. Thomas' student experience, including its personalized approach to education – such as its small class sizes and opportunities for students to work alongside expert faculty members."