College Students Hit Hard by Job Cuts

Students are being turned away from higher education institutions in great numbers due to faculty layoffs. They are also unable to register for classes they need to graduate, and are not receiving basic campus services due to job losses to everyone from tenure-track professors and adjuncts to counselors, library and health care aides.

According to the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges, 12 states have capped enrollments at their largest universities, including California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. In a recent survey by the council, seven states have also had to limit enrollments in public regional systems, including four of the five largest — California, Florida, Illinois, and New York.

“Faculty layoffs delay and deny meeting student needs in many ways,” says Professor Jim Rice, president of NEA’s National Council for Higher Education (NCHE). NEA represents approximately 200,000 higher education employees across the nation.

“Courses are canceled or course sequences are delayed,” he says. “This denies student access and extends time required to complete courses, which can increase costs to students.”

Layoffs also mean fewer faculty advisers are available to consult students at a time when higher education institutions are operating at student capacity. Institutional services usually expected from colleges and universities are also being eliminated.

“Counseling, disability and library services are being proportionately cut, which further hurts students,” Rice says.

From May 2009 to May 2010, budget cuts to the California State University system, for example, have resulted in the loss of approximately 2,500 jobs, or 10 percent of faculty members, across the system’s 23 campuses.

“This is a horrific one year drop in the number of faculty teaching our students,” California Faculty Association President Lillian Taiz said in news reports. “These budget cuts are job killers for university faculty and staff and they are opportunity killers for our students.”

At New York University (NYU), the current union contract runs from 2005 to 2011.

“In the last two years, our bargaining unit has declined by about 100 people through layoffs, attrition, and spreading the work around rather than filling positions,” says Stephen Rechner, president of NYU’s Union of Clerical, Administrative & Technical Staff.

Rechner says more than 100 front-line managers have also lost their jobs.

“Those who remain had their wages frozen in 2009 and are only getting a 1.5 percent raise in 2010,” he says.

According to the Education Commission of the States, an education jobs fund distributed in the same manner as monies under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) would fund 50,000 higher education jobs. This is why NEA is urging Congress to pass the Keep Our Educators Working Act, along with a $23 billion Education Jobs Fund. The bill would extend the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) from the ARRA.

“NEA members need to push for this and for national higher education funding policy,” Rice says. “This situation is an emergency for students, our country, and our country’s future.”

Learn more at NEA’s EducationVotes.