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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 4/3/2013

Enrollment drop forcing Owens to reduce work force

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Owens President Mike Bower said it's too early to determine what the scope or manner of further cuts would look like. Owens President Mike Bower said it's too early to determine what the scope or manner of further cuts would look like.
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More than two dozen Owens Community College administrative staff members will be laid off and even more positions could be cut, as the community college faces projected budget shortfalls.

The college's board of trustees passed a resolution Tuesday that says "a reduction in the workforce is required due to substandard enrollment and rigorous economies," as Owens projects a $2.8 million deficit for this fiscal year, and a more than $7.5 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year.

Owens has already told about 30 administrative staff members their contracts likely will not be renewed this summer and 30 others will be either reassigned or have their contracts modified.

Enrollment has fallen well short of predictions, with actual full-time equivalent enrollment at about 8,700, less than the projected 11,500. The college has reduced its budget by about $7 million during the past nine months, through increases in class sizes, delays in building maintenance, reductions in travel, and reductions in part-time hours, among other cuts, according to the board resolution.

Owens President Mike Bower said it's too early to determine what the scope or manner of further cuts would look like, and there's a chance the projected deficit could be reduced through increases in revenue, though he said any tuition increases would be small. While enrollment overall is down, some programs are growing, he said. The college's budget analysis and plan for deficit reductions are ongoing.

"I think we'll consider everyone's input," Mr. Bower said.

While many specifics are still unclear, among the announced cuts would be the elimination of the Owens Community College Child Care Center, which cares for nearly 100 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 8 years and serves students, faculty, staff, and the community.

College officials said the center runs at a loss of about $340,000. There are about a dozen teachers who work at the center

Staff and parents associated with the center asked the board to reconsider the closure, and presented a petition with about 700 signatures of community members who support the program. Erin Holleran, a teacher at the center, said the program was never asked in past years to operate with a balanced budget.

"We understand the financial position of the college," she said, "but we ask you to recognize that we have stayed within our given budget every year."

Emily Wilchek, who has children in the center, said that rather than eliminating the lab, the college should look for ways to boost enrollment and increase revenue.

"I believe that you will take the information, comments, and feedback provided to you in the past two weeks and do the right thing by keeping the Toledo campus Child Care Lab open," she said. "Let your legacy be a positive one."

Ms. Holleran said center staff have found about $200,000 in cost savings. Mr. Bower said the administration had asked the center for financial concessions, and he first learned of the staff's proposal on Monday.

The college is in negotiations with its employee unions, and Owens Faculty Association President David Matheny said the college's initial offer included slight pay increases that would be outweighed by larger concessions in health-care contributions. The administration has also proposed some reductions in audio-visual staff, along with the closure of the child care center, he said.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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