Seventy St. Louis Community College staffers have their jobs lingering as part of a proposal that calls for cutting costs to address mounting debt.
Chancellor Jeff Pittman said if a dramatic reduction isn’t made, the community college could face a $13 million deficit by 2020. Pittman pointed to lower funding from the state and lower enrollment as some of the reasons for their ongoing budget problems.
As word spread of a proposed reduction in teachers across the Forest Park campus, students like Malia expressed concern.
“It’s all the difference between having a good teacher and a bad teacher, if the kid learns,” she said.
Malia’s response came as no surprise to Pittman.
“This is really an alarming piece of news to the community,” he said.
Pittman sent a written proposal to eliminate 70 full-time faculty positions and 20 staff positions in a letter to the St. Louis Community College Board of Trustees. He remained firm that, despite an 18-percent reduction in staff, the mission of the college will continue.
“We are going to continue to focus on students first serving them meeting their education needs preparing them for the workforce,” Pittman said.
But Brett Williams, a part-time faculty member who is affiliated with the teacher's union, disagreed.
“In the end, the students suffer because they don't have stability with full-time faculty,” Williams said.
Both Malia and Williams wondered why budget constraints affect teachers and not the future plans for construction. Earlier this month, the community college announced plans to demolish sections of the Forest Park campus, including two of the current towers. A new health sciences center will be built near the site.
“I just know that they are tearing down this building here and making a new one but I like these two buildings,” Malia said.
“We've been contending that they are putting buildings over students and faculty, and we don't know why they won't say why,” said Williams.
A spokesperson for St. Louis Community College told 5 On Your Side the upgrades are necessary for buildings approaching a lifespan of about 50 years old. They added that breaking ground for a new center for nursing would help fill a growing need in the medical community.
The Board of Trustees is expected to make a decision on the proposed staff reduction as early as Monday, November 20.
Kedra Tolson, St. Louis Community College’s Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, gave 5 On Your Side the following statement:
"[A]s you may or may not know, all of the buildings at our three mature campuses were built back in the 1960’s, and many of the buildings have had no upgrades to aesthetics, bathrooms, classrooms, labs and equipment. It is critical for the future of the College to address these aging facilities for a variety of reasons, including providing an outstanding learning experience for the student.
We are breaking ground for the new Center for Nursing and Health Sciences in February 2018 to assist our community in meeting the dramatic workforce shortage of health science workers. The new building will hold 11 health programs that the health science community has informed us are of high need.
To assist in addressing our facility challenges, we are even selling our downtown headquarters (Cosand) that will reduce our facility footprint by 94,000 square feet and free up operational funding that can be transferred to the campuses. We plan to move a few administrators to the new building given our downtown headquarters will be sold.
As it relates to funding the new project, because of our strong financial position the college utilized a wraparound bond issuance method that will result in minimal impact on our overall budget. In fact, our total debt service is only 3% of our budget, and will decline over time given the current budget situation as past bonds will soon be paid off. Hence, the new construction will only have a positive impact on student learning and preparation for the workforce as students will learn on state of the art equipment, the same equipment that hospitals and other health care providers use today."
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