WYTHEVILLE, Va., Oct. 1, 2019 – Following several years of declining enrollments, Wytheville Community College (WCC) has announced a reorganization plan that includes a reduction of force of 16 full-time and 2 part-time employees. Additionally, several vacant positons will not be filled.
“We sincerely regret this decision,” said Dr. Dean Sprinkle, WCC President. “These individuals have been loyal employees; unfortunately, without increased, sustained enrollment growth, the college budget cannot sustain all of the positions that we have.”
As of July 1, WCC employed 108 full-time employees and 115 part-time employees. Among those losing jobs are several administrators, teaching faculty, support staff employees, and part-time wage employees. Grant funded positions will not be affected, and employees who will be losing their jobs will be made aware of any grant-funded openings for which they may be qualified.
Sprinkle cites several factors that have contributed to the budget shortfall and resulting layoffs, including the following:
• A decrease of over 900 full-time equivalent students since 2010-11;
• Declining birthrates and subsequent declining high school enrollments;
• Lower unemployment rates whereby many people choose to work instead of enroll in community college when jobs are more readily available in a strong economy;
• An increase in the number of dual enrollment students who take college-level courses while they are still in high school and then frequently skip regular community college enrollment to either transfer to four-year colleges and universities or directly enter the workforce.
“WCC’s state funding is based on a three-year enrollment average,” explained Sprinkle,” so for a few years resources from previous years were available to help cover tuition losses from year to year declining enrollment. Also, whenever possible, we haven’t filled vacant positions. We have reduced departmental budgets. Additionally, we have worked together to increase recruitment and retention efforts. Unfortunately, personnel costs are the largest part of the overall budget, and we have reached a point where we can no longer balance the budget without significant changes.”
WCC is not alone in terms of declining enrollments. The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) has seen an overall decrease of over 30,000 full-time equivalent students since peak enrollment in 2011-12. This is consistent with national trends. Inside Higher Education (May 30, 2019 issue) reported that college enrollment in the U.S. has decreased for the eighth consecutive year. And according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, over the past 3 years, spring college enrollments have declined 4% overall for all undergraduate students, and declined 5% for community college students.
“The reorganization plan is designed to maintain the best possible services to our students with the resources that we have,” explained Sprinkle. “Unfortunately, this means the elimination of less viable programs and a greater dependence on shared resources among remaining college departments and with other VCCS colleges.
The layoff of teaching faculty will be in low enrolled courses or programs or in courses or programs where there are multiple faculty members; instead of retaining as many full-time faculty, some courses may be taught by part-time faculty under the supervision of a full-time faculty member. Some low enrolled courses may also be offered more economically through the VCCS Shared Service Distance Learning program.
Job responsibilities of administrators and support staff will be absorbed by other remaining employees or transitioned to employees at the VCCS’s Shared Service Center.
Some employees will be eligible to retire, and others will receive severance packages.
Changes will be effective December 31, 2019, with a few employees working slightly longer to meet college needs to complete projects.
WCC will continue to offer its highly successful health professions programs and its strong transfer programs and occupational/technical programs.
“While the decisions to reorganize the college were not easy, I am confident in the future of Wytheville Community College and our ability to serve our community,” said Sprinkle. “These decisions never come easy, but they are necessary to ensure that the college maintains the ability to continue to accomplish our mission. The college maintains its commitment to serve our local region and to provide the education necessary to enhance the lives of our students. The restructuring will not only allow the college to maintain fiscal responsibility in the short term, but it will also allow for future strategic growth opportunities. As always, our commitment is to our students and the restructuring will allow for continued program growth to meet the demands of our students and our communities.”