In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Lane Community College will have online classes for the entire spring term. But that decision comes with financial consequences—including hundreds of layoffs.
As of Tuesday, up to 277 casual timesheet (C3 positions) and 99 Learn and Earn (C4, student positions) employees have been laid off.
Over the past three weeks, LCC’s Chief Human Resources Officer Shane Turner, said they have been using an emergency fund to pay employees while the campus has been closed to the public, even if they were not working. But Turner said that is no longer sustainable.
“We employed some part-time, timesheet custodians to help out when there were vacations or people were out sick,” said Turner. “Because of the reduced footprint on campus in the buildings that are closed, our full-time staff are now on a three-day-a-week rotation of shifts. And so there's no work for the timesheet folks to do there.”
LCC also has a Learn and Earn program, which allows students to earn employment while taking classes. Students in the program primarily help with academic technology, by helping professors in classrooms.
“Let's say if an instructor was having trouble with the technology in a classroom, they would go out from the help desk and assist the instructor in the classroom with that,” said Turner. “Now that we're not holding on-campus instruction, there isn't a need for that work right now.”
In total, Turner said LCC pays timesheet and Learn and Earn employees about $120,000 to $150,000 a month. For the remainder of the fiscal year, that would have been roughly $450,000 worth of expenses. But Turner said that does not mean LCC did not value their employees.
“I've been talking personally to employees who've worked at the college for seven, eight, nine, ten years—in these timesheet positions,”said Turner. “The work that they’ve done at the college is valued, and it's important, and appreciated.”
As of now, Turner said LCC is uncertain about what the future of the school looks like. With classes being taught remotely and public closures reducing families' work and income, less students have registered for the spring term.
“We are experiencing about a 12% drop in enrollment from last week to this week,” said Turner. “And every indication is that that is going to be reduced even further as people realize that they need to put their plans on hold for attending school.”
And a drop in enrollment means a drop in funds. Turner also said they are expecting to receive cuts in revenue from the state.
“We're being told to plan for at least a 10% reduction in state apportionment, which is about $2.6 million for the coming year,” said Turner.
But the funding cuts don’t stop there. Since parents are picking up their students and taking them back home, LCC is also looking at a loss of revenue from Titan Courts—the downtown housing unit owned by the college.
“It's running at about 50% occupancy right now because of the impacts of the pandemic,” said Turner. “And we're likely going to lose about $400,000 from that just through August. So there are a number of unexpected drops in revenue that we're going to have to account for and that's going to drive what we're able to do in terms of reemployment.”
But he said they are working to help the remainder of their staff.
“The intent is to preserve as many contracted positions as we can,” said Turner. “That is in the context of the uncertainty that we're facing financially. I can tell you that as a leadership team, we're all very, very concerned about how we're going to be able to do that in the face of this pandemic.”
Turner said the pandemic is economically catastrophic. As he talked about LCC’s updates during the outbreak, he stressed how “quickly and dramatically the ground is shifting underneath us,” as LCC works to continue operations.
“If you look back at our timeline over the last two weeks, we didn't have any restrictions about instruction on campus,” said Turner. “We had some travel advisories that we had put out. And so in two week’s time, we've gone from having enrollment be about 12% up—thinking we were going to be able to deliver all of our schedule—to where we're at now.”
Turner said LCC received a donation from the LCC Foundation Tuesday night. The financial aid office will be looking at the accounts of the laid-off Learn and Earn students to see if they can restructure their financial aid package, and give them some of the donations to offset what is lost in wages.
The funding will also support low-income students who need help transitioning to online classes.
“We've gotten some additional funds from the foundation that's trying to both provide augmentation to financial aid packages and also supply technology so students who are most at need might be able to get a loaner of a computer or other technology to assist them in taking their courses,” said Turner.
Turner said LCC never makes these decisions lightly, and the school is working to help students and contract employees as the community works to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Note: Lane Community College holds the licence for KLCC. KLCC staff was not affected by the layoffs.
Reporter Elizabeth Gabriel is employed by the KLCC Public Radio Foundation.