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President of SUNY Erie lays out plan including layoffs to address challenges

Dr. David Balkin announced the college is working to reduce staff, assess the three campus model and adjust to improve student outcomes.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — On Wednesday, SUNY Erie's President, Dr. David Balkin, shared an announcement with staff about steps the college will be taking to address some deep-rooted and structural challenges. 

Balkin shared three systemic issues that a consulting firm rpk Group identified

  • Having too many faculty on staff giving the declining student population
  • The three-campus model contributes to overstaffing with unnecessary administrative and academic structures 
  • SUNY Erie has the opportunity to adjust operations and spending to improve student outcomes

The issues identified contribute to a projected $9 million operating deficit projects for the upcoming school year.

The findings from the rpk Group study reaffirm what Balkin announced as the college's four-pronged strategy to address the structural challenges. That strategy includes reducing the workforce, deactivating programs that have low demand, reassess the college's physical footprint and partner with local industry sectors.

To help address overstaffing, Suny Erie started a partnership with Erie County for a $2.5 million retirement incentive program for 144 eligible staff.

Balkin reported that 25% of eligible FFECC union members and 38% of eligible AAECC union members have enrolled in the program to date.

"Although we knew that the retirement incentive alone would not fully address our staffing challenge, we did hope for a significantly higher participation rate. If you have not yet signed up for the program but are still considering it, please reach out to our Human Resource department immediately," Balkin said in the letter to staff. 

The decision to participate in the program is irrevocable. 

Balkin also announced that layoffs will be announced soon. 

Employees affiliated with AFSCME and CSEA unions will be notified by the end of the month about layoffs.

"The leadership of these unions are working closely with our administration to identify potential positions for their impacted members with the other county organizations that are included under the “employer” definition in our collective bargaining agreements (the County, the Erie County Medical Center, and the County Library System)," Balkin said in the correspondence. 

Layoffs affecting employees affiliated with the FFECC and AAECC unions will be announced in July. Those decisions will be made after eligible employees make the irrevocable decision to participate in the retirement incentive program.

The school will continue to "teach out" students who are apart of programs that are being phased out.

"Although every community college would love to support every student’s program request, programs with continuously low student demand are not financially sustainable by the college," the letter to staff said.

Balkin didn't directly address the future of the ECC South location, but did say the college always intends to have a presence in the Southtowns. However, that presence as well as the footprints in the North and City locations will change over time.  

"The consultant’s data-driven forecast indicates that enrollment will not return to earlier peaks. We must right-size the workforce and layoffs will occur. This harsh reality will stabilize and sustain SUNY Erie, and position us for future success," Balkin wrote towards the end of the email.

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