Declining State Appropriations, Enrollments Key Factors in Technical College Layoff Notices

Posted: March 21, 1996

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

A total of 553 faculty members at Minnesota's technical colleges will receive layoff notices in the coming days as a result of expected funding shortfalls and reduced enrollments, but many may be reinstated before classes begin next fall.

The notices were authorized Wednesday by the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to comply with a deadline in the state law governing technical college instructors' employment rights.

Layoff notices must be sent at this time to any faculty members being laid off for the coming fall quarter.

"In many cases, these people will be hired back," said Trustee Robert Cahlander, chair of the board's Personnel Policy Committee.

The decision to authorize the layoff notices -- and to reduce or suspend 252 programs at the technical colleges -- was based on recommendations from the technical college presidents. They took the action because of anticipated funding shortfalls and reduced enrollments.

The presidents based their recommendations on worst-case budget projections for the coming fiscal year. It is expected that many of the laid-off employees could be reinstated after funding questions--including uncertainties about federal monies and the amount of tuition increases, if any--are settled.

"Our presidents are taking steps to safeguard our educational programs and service to students," said MnSCU Chancellor Judith Eaton. "The decision to proceed with layoffs is painful, but necessary in light of the budget picture."

The campus budget problems are due mainly to an erosion in state appropriations to Minnesota higher education during the past several years. Since 1987, the higher education share of the state budget has slipped from 15.5 percent to 12.5 percent, and per student funding has declined significantly. Tuition increases have filled some of the budget gap, but not all of it.

The amount of money available for allocation to MnSCU campuses in the coming fiscal year is expected to decline. The size of the decrease will depend on such factors as federal funding cuts, enrollment levels, tuition rates, and labor settlements.

Technical college enrollments last fall totaled 41,393 students, a decline of 4.7 percent compared with the previous fall. A significant reason for the decrease is that many potential students are taking advantage of abundant employment opportunities and deferring their educational goals.

Except for probationary instructors, technical college faculty members who receive layoff notices are entitled to a hearing. The Board of Trustees will act on a final list of layoff notices at its meeting in May.

There are a total of 1,954 technical college faculty members, including full- and part-time employees.

Technical college faculty became state employees last July 1 when the merger of the technical colleges, community colleges and state universities became effective. Until then, they had been employees of technical college boards or local school districts. A new contract is being negotiated between the state and the United Technical College Educators, the bargaining unit for the faculty. Until a contract is ratified, technical college instructors' employment rights are covered by the 18 collective bargaining agreements with the former employers and by state law.

Under terms of separate bargaining agreements, layoff notices, if needed, would be sent to community college faculty members after July 1 and to state university faculty members by the end of spring quarter. Any layoffs of community college and state university faculty members would not become effective until the 1997-98 academic year.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to consider tuition levels for the 1996-97 academic year at its April meeting.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities serves more than 151,500 students at 62 campuses around the state.

 

-