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HENNIKER

NEC faculty donates cash to save jobs

'College still reports $350,000 shortfall'

When New England College officials announced they might cut staff to balance a budget shortfall, faculty convened an impromptu gathering Friday and quickly pledged to donate the $100,000 necessary to avoid layoffs, according to professor Christopher Dale.

Over the weekend, most of the school's 70 faculty members, who were not up for cuts themselves, made contributions to offset a more than $350,000 deficit caused by a drop in enrollment, according to NEC spokeswoman Kathleen Williams. Because of the shortfall, the school's 175 staff members will take unpaid furloughs between now and June 30, with most lasting five days and a handful stretching several weeks, according to Williams.

The lost pay will be painful for many but less so than the loss of a job, according to Dale, who said many faculty members were distraught over the possible cuts.

'(We) learned that among the various options some staff people could be laid off as a budget cutting measure. . . . You start putting faces to the idea of people being laid off and losing their income. And not only are you making more income, but you've got significantly more job security as a faculty person,' said Dale, who has taught at NEC since 1985. 'It just seemed like the right thing to do.'

Williams said the short-term deficit was caused by low enrollment in the school's graduate program - about 100 students short of what the college had projected. A new budget cycle beginning July 1 includes more conservative enrollment estimates, and Williams said she does not expect any permanent layoffs or future furloughs.

'Our applications are up about 100 percent, and we're expecting an increase in online enrollment,' she said.

Williams said she could not give a figure for the full deficit, only that as of yesterday afternoon, the college needed to cut about $350,000 through the furloughs and other cost-saving measures. Williams said the school is also considering freezing contributions to staff and faculty retirement funds, though no decision on that matter has been made yet.

College President Michele Perkins was not available for comment yesterday afternoon.

Dale said the gathering of faculty, staff and administrators Friday afternoon lasted about three hours. When layoffs were raised, Dale said he proposed the possibility of donations and asked how much was needed to avoid the cuts. The college's financial adviser crunched the numbers and gave the amount of $100,000, Dale said.

'The faculty was very energized by that. And we are very close here. This is a community, a small community of . . . (people) who are here for a very special reason, which in part is that sense of community,' he said.

Williams said $100,000 in faculty donations of various amounts came in over the weekend.

'It was anything people felt capable of. We're exceedingly grateful for any contribution that the faculty made,' she said, adding that the school did not organize the fundraising effort.

Dale declined to say how many staff members administrators told them could have lost jobs.

'More than a few,' he said. 'It was enough to say we can't let this happen.'

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com.)