Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Midway College terminating about 12 faculty, after releasing 16 staffers; city budget will be squeezed

After suffering an 18 percent decline in enrollment from last year, Midway College is terminating about a dozen faculty members' contracts and suspending contributions to faculty retirement accounts in order to balance its budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The college released 16 staff members this summer. The moves will squeeze Midway's city budget; the college is the town's largest employer and taxpayer. The exact effect is uncertain because individual tax payments are confidential by law.

The enrollment plunge "greatly impacted our bottom line," said Dr. John Marsden, who became president of the college in February. "The enrollment drops were across each area of the college and shortfalls were in both recruitment of new students and retention of existing students. As an institution that is so heavily dependent on tuition revenue, cuts have to be made. After exhausting all other options, some faculty contracts will be eliminated from this fiscal year in order to balance the budget."

The main entrance to Midway College, in early spring
College trustees gave Marsden authority to terminate some faculty contracts and voted to suspend the employee retirement match for the remainder of the academic year. A news release from the college noted that all employees got a 5 percent raise in January. "Although a difficult decision to make, we felt that suspending the retirement match would be an equitable measure and less impactful to our employees," said Donna Moore, chair of the Board of Trustees.

Marsden said the college must have a balanced budget as it seeks re-accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2015. "Our enrollment management team is working to continue recruiting students for this academic year and is putting more effective recruitment plans in place for the coming years," he said. "In addition our Academic Affairs Office is working to address the issue of retention and student services."

The release said the college administration "is focused on moving the institution forward by implementing 'best practices' across campus in all areas; refocusing efforts on the Women's College experience; and working to ensure a student-focused approach to the institution. Work is also underway for finalizing a new strategic plan for the institution to establish both short- and long-term goals for the institution."

In an email to the Midway Messenger, college spokeswoman Ellen Gregory attributed the enrollment decline to increased competition for all types of students, "a need to be more strategic in our recruitment efforts to find best academic and financial fit" lack of registration deadlines and other poor practices, "and not being as competitive with scholarships and financial aid as our competitors (Women's College students)."

The issue of retaining students is complex, Gregory said, "but the biggest factor identified is the need for better and more structured advising from our faculty. Lastly, not related to enrollment but impacting our budget, is the lack of a fundraising plan or structure for the past few years."

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