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Monroe Community College (NY) announces layoffs

Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY announced yesterday that it plans layoffs of faculty and staff in an effort to “right-size” the college. Enrollment at MCC peaked in 2011 and has declined by 41.5% since that time. Its credit hour enrollment has dropped by more than 56%.

MCC is not a small institution; in 2022, it had an unduplicated headcount of more than 20,000 students. It is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, and like some other SUNY campuses, it has recently come under fire for its low enrollment and overall financial condition. Of all the schools in the SUNY system, only Clinton Community College has lost more students.

New York funds its community colleges based on enrollment, so as the enrollment declines, so does the state funding. For MCC, that translates to losses numbering in the millions of dollars per year. Currently, the college relies on its fund balance to pay the bills, but that strategy will last only as long as the money does.

To contain the damage, the MCC administration adopted a three-phased approach, which included department consolidations and eliminating some administrative positions. In the second phase, MCC offered faculty members a voluntary separation incentive. Moving forward, the college will pursue involuntary separations for faculty members.

MCC has not said how it will determine which faculty members to lay off; however, those designated for separation will receive at least one year’s notice prior to termination. As of 2022, MCC had about 230 full-time faculty and about 310 part-time instructors. Overall, the faculty comprise about one-third of MCC’s FTE headcount.

Layoffs indicate an executive failure

I have said before and will continue to say that layoffs occur due to financial and strategic deficiencies. They are an admission of managerial and executive failure. Unfortunately, those most directly responsible for the conditions that led to layoffs are rarely the ones who lose their jobs. Instead, everyone else in the organizations pays for the mistakes of those who made poor strategic and financial decisions.

Some will argue that people learn more from their mistakes than they do from their successes. I wholeheartedly agree with that observation. It’s exactly what justifies letting the decision-makers suffer the same fate as the employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Bad decision-makers should suffer the consequences of their own bad decisions.

Community colleges across the United States have suffered significant enrollment losses. While executives will come up with a raft of reasons to explain why their enrollments have cratered, the unvarnished truth is simple. Community college administrators have wasted a lot of time and burned through a lot of resources attempting to maintain what their predecessors built.

There has been little recognition that their predecessors built programs that met a different set of needs than those we have today. Failure to develop new programs, failure to augment existing programs to maximize the earnings of their graduates, and failure to retire old programs have combined to make community colleges unattractive career options. These all fall under the category of “failure to adapt.” There’s not much to recommend an associate degree that can pull in $36,000 per year, especially when that’s only three-fourths of what a person needs to live in an expensive county (like Washtenaw). And there’s no reason to pay executives premium salaries when the only thing they bring to the table is failure.

Trustees should never authorize layoffs that don’t include the person or people whose decisions led to the need to terminate people.

Photo Credit: Billy Bob Bane , via Flickr