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Community College Layoffs Mean Something

If you’ve looked at the headlines lately, you may have seen these:

LCCC Eliminating 30+ Positions, Reorganizing Programs Due To Budget Shortfall
“Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne is going through a major reorganization and reduction process, eliminating more than 30 positions and eyeing certain programs for changes.”

Budget cuts, furloughs coming to St. Louis Community College in coronavirus fallout
“Faced with budget cuts, the chancellor and 14 other senior leaders of St. Louis Community College have agreed to take furloughs one day a month from July through December. Other actions include a hiring freeze and reduced travel, training and operational spending.”

Cuyahoga Community College resorts to layoffs, buyouts, pay cuts to stave off coronavirus budget shortfalls
“Cuyahoga Community College will cut pay, offer buyouts and eventually lay off workers to help fill a projected $25 million budget hole due to the coronavirus crisis.”

CUNY Layoffs Prompt Union Lawsuit
“The union representing faculty and staff at the City University of New York has filed suit in federal court to force the public university system to rehire recently laid-off employees and to refrain from making any further layoffs.”

The list could go on. Thousands of higher education institutions, including community colleges have laid off or plan to lay off faculty and staff in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

These community college layoffs mean something. They mean that budgets are so tight that the affected community colleges are cutting academic programs.

Layoffs should put construction plans on indefinite hold

Washtenaw Community College has not avoided layoffs. Earlier this year, WCC cut dozens of non-instructional positions to curb costs. Fortunately, the WCC administration remained largely intact. To be fair, the Trustees did vote to cut the Executive Management budget by 5% for FY21.

Cutting staff, positions and programs transmits clear and specific information about the financial condition of an institution. It means there is a lack of money to pay for the one thing that makes a community college operate: personnel.

In some cases, community colleges have turned to layoffs because they’ve lost state funding. In most cases, however, they’ve lost their reason for operating in the first place: students. Overall, community college enrollment nationwide is down nearly 10%.

And if you listen to college administrators, they will say that their enrollments have been declining for a few years. It marks the beginning of a long-term drop in the number of college-aged individuals.

In short, if there is no money and there are no students, there is no reason to build new buildings on campus.

The WCC administration is counting on students to pay for the “Advanced Transportation Center.” But fewer students on campus will mean higher costs for those who do choose to enroll.

The better solution, for both the campus and the community, is to carefully rethink the planned construction on campus. Under the circumstances, an honest, critical re-assessment of the need for the “Advanced Transportation Center” is in order. If WCC doesn’t have the money to pay its staff, then it probably also doesn’t have the money to build a building the campus doesn’t really need.

Going forward with limited-value construction projects while laying off the employees looks bad.

Photo Credit: Tim Samoff , via Flickr