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St. Louis Community College considering more cuts to faculty amid budget shortage

St. Louis Community College Chancellor Jeff Pittman at a Board of Trustees meeting on April 20, 2017.
File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Community College could once again cut its faculty and staff this year as it continues to lose students and state funding.

The public two-year college’s Board of Trustees listened to feedback Tuesday for more than an hour to a budget reduction plan at its downtown headquarters.

A budget task force is recommending trustees approve a plan to eliminate 70 faculty positions and 25 staff members. Other cost-saving measures being considered include suspending faculty sabbaticals and increasing insurance premiums for workers.

The college is trying to sell its downtown headquarters to raise money. It also offered an early retirement package to employees in the spring, which college administrators say 117 employees took advantage of.

But that’s not enough. The college projects without further cuts it will be $12.9 million over budget in three years.

Student enrollment is down more than a third since 2011 to just under 20,000 at its four campuses. State funding was also cut by roughly $5 million this year.

Dozens of employees and students lobbied trustees to reject reducing staff and faculty, saying it will negatively impact student learning and worker morale.

“Teachers are where the rubber meets the road at this college and we deserve to be valued, appreciated, and treated and compensated fairly,” said Kathy Ratino, a part-time professor.

Relations between the college administration and its employees is strained. At a board meeting last month, an adjunct union representative was arrested by campus police while trying to address the board.

St. Louis Community College students and faculty rally for a new contract at the Meramec campus Oct. 23, 2017.
Credit File | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Community College students and faculty rally for a new contract at the Meramec campus last month.

Tuesday’s meeting was calmer, but a small group of protesters could be heard on the street five stories below, calling for the college to approve a new contract for adjunct teachers like Ratino.

The trustees took no action. They’re scheduled to vote on the spending reduction plan at a Nov. 30 meeting.

“We love each and every one of you and we know that the decision we have to make is what we have to do,” said trustee Doris Graham following the public comments.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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