CALAIS, Maine — After 20 years of steady enrollment growth, the Maine Community College System is faced with budget cuts that likely will result in reductions in administration, faculty and staff at the state’s seven community colleges and could force the colleges to reduce the number of students it serves.
John Fitzsimmons, president of the community college system, said Wednesday that the budget cuts implemented by Gov. John Baldacci recently will result in between 25 and 30 layoffs systemwide. Most of those layoffs will come in the next academic year, he said.
“I do not see a great impact at the colleges this year,” Fitzsimmons said. “There will be a few layoffs this year, but the bulk of them will come next year.”
As a result of the state budget curtailment announced last month, the community colleges will see a reduction of 3.4 percent, or $1.7 million this year and the same amount for next year, Fitzsimmons told the trustees, college presidents and the faculty and staff of Washington County Community College, where the regular trustees’ meeting was held Wednesday.
Fitzsimmons warned that the cuts could be deeper, depending on the governor’s budget and what the Legislature does with it when it meets in January.
“It could be even worse,” he said.
The layoffs will hit all areas of the community college system, administration, staff and faculty and will result in a reduction in the number of students the colleges will be able to serve, according to Fitzsimmons.
“If that happens we will lose about 400 students,” he said. “We’ll have to see what happens in January. We’ll look at what we need to do to keep ourselves whole. It’s very difficult to think about losing students when so many people are turning to us.”
Earlier in the meeting, Fitzsimmons had praised the efforts of the individual college presidents, faculty and staffs for the work they had done to increase enrollment. He pointed out that systemwide the community colleges have seen steady growth over the past 20 years, including a 12 percent increase in enrollment in recent years, despite economic conditions.
“When Maine people needed help, the community colleges stepped up,” he said. “You did what you needed to do to help Maine people and we’re very proud of you.”
Fitzsimmons said the colleges will be creative in the coming months in an effort to find ways to minimize the effects of budget cuts, particularly on students.
“Everything has to be looked at, especially at a time like this when we need to be educating more students, not less,” he said.