Let me share some stories about higher education from this week. These aren’t technology stories, not futuristic accounts. Instead each anecdote illustrates the enormous financial pressures squeezing most of American colleges and universities. None of them are unusually dramatic: no closures in this post, no queen sacrifices. Just the steady ratcheting up towards crisis.
Item: the University of Massachusetts Boston told 400 adjuncts that they might not be rehired this fall. That is about one third of the campus instructional staff, and more than half of the non-tenured faculty:
There are 1,271 total full- and part-time faculty, according to university officials. About 775 of those are nontenure track, about 400 of whom have received notices that they might not have jobs in the fall.
Note that this comes after fall classes are already on the books. See, things are in flux:
Although many adjuncts have already been scheduled for classes in the fall, the school is reexamining the schedule to meet student demand “most effectively and efficiently,” according to campus spokesman DeWayne Lehman. “We expect that a substantial number of these will be reappointed later in the summer as . . . our funding picture becomes clearer,” he said in a statement.
What’s the cause? Oh my dear readers, you know the drill:
Lehman said Thursday that the campus faces a number of budget uncertainties. The college is not sure how much money it will get from the state this year, trustees have not set the tuition rate for next year, and the campus doesn’t know how many students will enroll, he said.
Item: Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia is cutting staff pay to avoid layoffs.
Seventeen of the 177-member staff agreed to take a salary cut or a reduced workweek effective July 1, and the college forced six other full-time employees and one part-time employee to reduce their workweeks by up to eight hours, college officials said this week...
The cancellation of raises, which applies to both staff and faculty, allowed the college to close the gap, [spokeswoman Kathleen Spigelmyer] said. Savings from the cuts amounted to about 3.5 percent of the college’s budget, she said.
Good for them on being able to resist riffing people. On the other hand, what a sacrifice. How many schools are now making such a decision?
Item: Vermont’s state legislature gave public eolleges some cash, which is a good thing. However, Vermont is by some measures the least supportive state in the nation for its public system. And this cash is a one-time deal, not a ratchet upwards in the annual budget.
[Jeb Spaulding, chancellor of Vermont State Colleges] says the system has cut more than $2.1 million in payroll costs over the past two years, largely by not filling vacant positions. He says the search for additional savings continues.
What this looks like on the ground:
[Sandy Noyes, a staff assistant for the Humanities and Writing and Literature Departments] has been at Johnson [College] for 23 years, and now serves as vice-chair of the staff union’s bargaining unit. Things have never been opulent at the college, Noyes says. But she says the money situation is tighter now than at any time in the past.
“And now we’ve been cut down to even trying to make sure we don’t buy too many pens or pencils, or too much paper,” Noyes says.
Once more, nothing dramatic. There’s even something good there, amidst the negative.
How much of American education now exists in such financial pressure?