Santa Fe Community College President Becky Rowley announced layoffs and facility closures in a letter sent to staff members Tuesday morning.
Rowley said in a phone interview that after the campus closed in mid-March, the college continued to pay employees through April. The continued campus shutdown this month forced the administration to lay off 80 full- and part-time employees at least temporarily as SFCC’s fitness center, its Kids Campus, plus food service, bookstore and other facilities are closed.
“It’s difficult, but when we can’t fully open, we’re not able to pay people who can’t work now,” Rowley said. “So we just made the difficult decision to hopefully terminate people for as short a period as possible before campus reopens.”
Earlier this month, the college’s governing board approved emergency powers that give Rowley the ability to discontinue academic programs or restructure departments without being subject to a challenge from a board member or faculty petition, according to official college policy.
Rowley said the college is preparing for a budget shortfall between $2 million and $5 million but will have a much clearer picture of its financial future following a special session of the Legislature in June.
While economic recessions have traditionally been a boon to community college enrollment, Rowley said enrollment could decrease by at least 10 percent in the fall.
“I expect enrollment to take a hit as people are unsure about whether to venture out or not,” she said. “We hope more people see now as a great time to up their skill level or make a career change, especially because we offer so much online.”
Members of the college’s faculty union said they’re preparing to teach remotely in the fall amid fears course offerings could be cut.
“Early signs are that the college will face reduced registration for classes this summer and fall, as well as budget cuts related to the state budget that will come out of the special session,” faculty union President Stephen DeGiulio said. “We are working with the college administration to insure that economic sacrifices that may have to be made are imposed fairly and equitably.”