Education

Layoffs and program eliminations are coming within the Kentucky Community and Technical College system.

The cutbacks come from a “perfect storm” of sustained budget cuts and dwindling enrollment figures at the 16 community college campuses across the state, said Terri Giltner, spokeswoman for KCTCS.

The state’s most recent budget agreement, which calls for a 4.5 percent slash in funding for state higher education entities over the next two years, doesn’t make it easier for the college system to retain current levels of employees and programming, Giltner added.

“We’ve really tightened our belt and, quite frankly, we don’t think there’s many notches left,” Giltner said.

It’s unclear just how many positions will be cut from the state’s community college system. “Each college is developing its own plan,” Giltner said.

Some layoffs are already happening. In Louisville, staffers at Jefferson Community and Technical College began receiving notices as early as February, according to one employee who requested anonymity.

Giltner said terminated employees would remain on the community college system’s payroll until the end of this fiscal year and would continue to receive both salary and benefits during that time.

David Cooper, a professor at the Jefferson Community and Technical College campus and former president of the state’s community college teacher’s union, said morale is low across the system.

“These are dedicated employees,” he said, noting some are decades-long veterans of the community college system.

Cooper said he’s concerned the layoffs are misguided. Cutting low-ranking employees isn’t as effective as reducing the number of administrators who earn higher salaries, he said.

“If we are really are trying to save, that would be the way to save, to eliminate some administrative positions,” he said.

Cooper said the ebb and flow of community college enrollment levels relates to the boom and bust of the economy. Enrollment swells during a recession and falls during more prosperous times, he said.

KCTCS President Jay Box told WKU Public Radio in February the community college system’s enrollment is down nearly 26,000 since it peaked in 2011.

“Unless there is a huge recession, our enrollment growth will be very minimal over the next few years,” he said.

In addition to the layoffs, officials at the Jefferson Community and Technical College campus are considering enacting fees for parking and graduation applications in an effort to make up for an expected $8.5 million revenue shortfall, according to a report from a recent faculty council meeting.

KCTCS is also pushing for a tuition increase, but enacting such a hike is up to the Council on Postsecondary Education, Giltner said.

The community college campus in Elizabethtown recently informed 26 staffers and faculty members their contracts would not be renewed for the next school year, according to a recent report from WAVE-3.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.