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How Mills College transformed its ‘deficit culture’

In 2017, Mills College in Oakland, California, faced a budget deficit so severe — to the tune of $9 million — it declared a “financial emergency” as it moved to lay off dozens of faculty and staff.

Five years of multimillion-dollar shortfalls and enrollment declines had not only led to problems in the college’s accounting books. It also created what Julia Chinyere Oparah, provost and dean of faculty at Mills, described as a “deficit culture” at a panel during this year’s annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

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