The University of St. Thomas has suspended enrollment into its full-time MBA and master's in accountancy programs, attributing the decision to shifting demographics and demands of its students.

The steps, along with some other consolidation actions, will lead to the elimination of 19 jobs.

"Demand, for especially graduate business education, is changing," said Stefanie Lenway, dean of the school's Opus College of Business. "Students don't have as much money as they used to, so the opportunity cost of going full-time is through the roof, and they need much more flexibility."

The full-time master's of business administration program started in 2005 as a two-year program serving 200 students. It peaked in the 2009-2010 academic year with 145 students, said Michael Garrison, senior associate dean at the Opus College of Business.

Already revised to an 18-month program, it currently has only 28 students, he said.

"We are teaching those programs out," Garrison said. "We are committed to giving them the education that they came in to get from the university."

For students who have applied to or been accepted to the full-time MBA program, the school is making plans to accommodate them in the part-time flex MBA and online MBA programs, including any scholarships they carry with them.

The University of St. Thomas is not the only school seeing changes in demand for its MBA programs, Garrison said. Over the past five years, enrollments are down 20% in MBA programs across the Twin Cities.

Lenway said the changes — which she outlined in a letter posted on the school's website on Feb. 12 — were about responding to disruptions and digitization in the marketplace but also about offering more flexibility and responsiveness to its students.

Staff and faculty meetings were held Feb. 14 to discuss the new organizational structure. There are 19 staff positions that will be eliminated by July 1. At least five new positions will be created by combining positions, which will reduce the overall impact. The school is assisting people interested in other jobs within the university.

Lenway noted the layoffs were for a variety of reasons: programmatic, technology and general consolidation, but also for centralization reasons as some career services and alumni functions can be assumed at the university level.

The University of St. Thomas has more than 6,400 undergraduate and 3,400 graduate students. The Opus College of Business has part-time, full-time and online options for its approximately 2,300 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students.

Lenway's plan also calls for a different way to organize the business school. Instead of organizing around individual programs, it will shift to a "platform strategy" that focuses on coursework and the ability to stack courses, especially for graduate students. In other words, instead of focusing on a prescriptive set of courses toward a general graduate degree, students would be able to take three or four courses to earn certificates and then bundle those certificates in a more personalized and specialized master's degree.

"The platform model is a way to talk about ongoing innovation and to meet changing student needs," Lenway said.

As part of the reorganization, the nondegree executive education program, which has been around for more than 60 years, will shift from the Opus College of Business to the broader University of St. Thomas and will continue to serve the needs of corporations and corporate executives. Reorganization plans do not apply to the university's Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926

Correction: The opening sentence in a previous version of this article attributed the reduction of 19 jobs too narrowly. The reduction is happening because of several actions, full details of which appeared lower in the story.