There are a lot of worried faces at Erie Community College this summer. As the start of the school year approaches, reports are that enrollment is down over 4,000 full-time equivalent students compared to this time last year.
Some are blaming the college's delay in implementing a retention program urged by the Middle States accreditation group. Others point to the Admissions Department's failure to notify nearly 7,000 accepted students of placement exam dates, causing many of these students to choose other education alternatives. Still others blame the lack of state-of-the-art facilities and available dorms as the cause of students going elsewhere.
While administrators are playing the blame game, time is running short to fill this major hole in their budget. Coupled with ECC's rumored loss of significant federal grant revenue due to the school's failure to implement outcome-based success measures, the budget holes will need to be filled with administrative staff cuts. Further, loss of teaching jobs might result from empty classrooms in the fall.
All of this comes while the college's unions are trying to negotiate a new contract. Given the difficult budgetary climate that the college faces this year, it is unlikely that the unions will see much in the way of a wage increase, and will continue operating under the terms of their current expired contract. Many believe such a move would be a lose-lose situation, because the college would be denied some much needed budgetary flexibility that a new contract could bring, and employees would be denied the opportunity to give concessions in exchange for higher wages.