WENHAM — Gordon College is cutting eight majors and eliminating 36 jobs as part of a major restructuring designed to ensure its future.

In what it labeled "fundamental shifts" in its academic offerings, the college will no longer have majors in social work, physics, middle school and secondary education, French and Spanish, among others.

The college said it is making the cuts due to "financial necessity and not financial distress."

"We are making difficult decisions in response to market realities in order to shore up a stronger financial foundation for the long-run," the school explained on its website under the headline "The Next Chapter for Gordon."

"We have seen the cautionary tales in higher education all around us, where schools could not (or would not) make strategic, forward-looking choices. So, Gordon is making a plan to get better, not just get by."

The 36 positions to be eliminated represent 7 percent of Gordon College's 519 employees. The layoffs include 11 faculty and six staff employees. Another 17 staff positions will not be filled, and two retiring faculty members will not be replaced, the college said. Two of the laid-off faculty members have been offered other positions at the college.

Gordon College was criticized on social media for announcing the cuts late in the year for high school students who are choosing colleges. The college responded on Facebook that the timing was "not ideal," but said it was necessary "to ensure this process was as thorough and detailed as possible."

Current students will be able to graduate in their major, the school said.

Rick Sweeney, a spokesman for the college, said that while some majors will no longer be available as stand-alone majors, no programs are being cut. Students can still major in history, for example, but it will be combined with philosophy and politics.

The college said certain majors, such as middle school and secondary education, are being cut because they have drawn low numbers of students. New students looking to major in education can move to a post-baccalaureate licensure program, the school said.

Another major, physics, requires a large investment in lab space and equipment for a small number of students, the school said. New students can choose a physics track within a new integrated science major.

Several students on campus Monday declined to comment on the cuts. One student said they had been told not to comment.

The reductions at Gordon College come at a time when private colleges are struggling to survive due to declining enrollment and families' inability to pay. Tuition, room and board at Gordon is $49,900. Average student aid is $21,000. The college said there will be no cuts in financial aid.

Enrollment at Gordon, a Christian college, had dipped about 6 percent in the last few years, from 2,105 undergraduate and graduate students in 2014 to 1,963 last year. The college said one of the goals of the changes is to make the school less reliant on undergraduate tuition revenue.

Sweeney said the school began examining its $58 million budget last fall. A committee of 26 faculty and staff made recommendations, and trustees approved a 7 percent budget cut, about $4 million, on May 7.

Gordon announced the changes at a faculty and staff meeting on Friday afternoon, as well as in email and social media communications to faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni, Sweeney said. Employees affected by layoffs were notified on Thursday and Friday, he said.

Despite the cuts, Sweeney said that Gordon College's "core identity will not change."

"We know the future of liberal arts is education plus preparation, and we’re committed to strengthening that synergy at Gordon in the short and long run," he said.

Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@gloucestertimes.com.