Help us fund local COVID-19 reporting in our community

Staff, faculty layoffs at NHTI stir debate

  • The campus of NHTI is always bustling with activity, especially in front of the Student Center, which is, of course, the center for the students.

Monitor staff
Published: 11/19/2019 5:05:30 PM

The news that NHTI will eliminate 10 positions, including four full-time professors, in the face of a continuing decline in enrollment has generated dismay at Concord’s community college.

“A lot of students were concerned, a lot of students were upset, a lot of students have talked to me, asked me, ‘Can you do something about it?’” said Eynas Jarrar of Bow, the student body president. “There were even some who were thinking about not coming back next semester until they know what will happen.”

Layoffs, which take effect Dec. 27, include the least senior professor in the departments of English, education, accounting and social science. Under the collective bargaining agreement for full-time faculty in the community college system, layoffs are applied by seniority in any department.

Also affected are staff in the library, technology and health services and the English Speakers of Other Languages program, which will lose its full-time director, Dawn Higgins.

“This is very painful, but unfortunately necessary to create a more sustainable institution,” said NHTI president Gretchen Mullin-Sawicki, who took office this summer.

Mullin-Sawicki said the two-year school has a total enrollment, including online students, of 4,640, roughly an 8 percent decline from the same time last year, which she said translates into a $1.2 million gap in the budget. That continues a slow decline in enrollment that NHTI has seen for about a decade. Mullin-Sawicki said the decline has been seen in traditional students, who are younger and recently out of high school, as well as older or returning students, the kind who have long sought out community colleges as a conduit into higher education. One of the few areas of growth is online education, she said.

NHTI is not alone. Community colleges traditionally do best when the economy is weak, reducing the work options for older and borderline students.

Nationally their enrollment has been stagnant or declining since 2010, when an estimated 7.2 million students were enrolled in two-year post-secondary schools in the country. By 2018 that figure had fallen to an estimated 5.7 million, a decline of 20% in less than a decade, according to a report from the research group Statista.

The situation is more urgent in New England due to demographics: The number of graduating high school seniors in the region has been falling for several years, a trend that is not expected to change any time soon.

A final problem is government support for public higher education, which has declined throughout much of the country.

A study by the Center for Budget and Policy Studies said that per-student state support for two-year schools declined 26% in New Hampshire between 2008 and 2017. The current two-year budget signed into law this summer reverses that trend, giving $109.4 million to the community college system, a boost of $16 million over the previous biennium.

Among those who will be laid off is Jeanne Duford of Boscawen, who has been a full-time professor at NHTI for 10 years and was a part-time adjunct for 11 years before that – although the part-time teaching does not count toward seniority.

“I did not see this coming,” said Duford.

Part of her surprise, she said, is that while enrollment is cited as the driving factor in the decision, her classes are often “so full they have to override because students are trying to get in.”

“I’m trying not to feel bitter about it,” she said. “I feel for the students, particularly the ones who have already signed up for my classes next semester.”

She also decried the effect on the ESOL program from Higgins’ layoff.

“She built this program from ground up. Students come here from all over New Hampshire because of her – they’re coming from Manchester, Nashua, not going to colleges there because they don’t have services provided here,” Duford said.

Jarrar, the student body president, said she would be writing a letter of concern to the administration, either the president or the chancellor, and that a social media campaign has begun using the hashtag #IStandWith plus the name of a laid off person or eliminated position.

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy