The number of part-time lecturers throughout the state’s largest public college system is likely to be cut back severely next school year as officials wrestle with budgetary constraints.

“We have been understaffed for years in order to control our budget,” Housatonic Community College President Anita Gliniecki recently told the finance committee that oversees the budgets of the 16-campus system.

“It has been challenging to operate,” said Norwalk Community College President David Levinson. “What we have been doing is increasing class sizes.”

Seven of the nine college presidents who have presented their proposed budgets to the finance panel so far collectively want to cut the number of part-time teaching staff by 297 positions — a 9 percent reduction. The cuts, if approved, mean these community colleges and state universities will likely be offering fewer courses and have larger class sizes in an effort to reduce anticipated budget deficits.

Officials of the 90,000-student college system in February reported they had a $42.1 million, 4 percent structural deficit in their budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. Since then, state lawmakers have voted to provide the college system with $24.2 million to help the university reduce the size of its deficit and keep tuition costs down.

All of the schools – with the exception of Western Connecticut State University – are expecting no growth in the number of students at their schools next year.

Maintaining flat enrollment will be an accomplishment, the college presidents say, pointing to a declining pool of high school graduates they have to recruit from and recent years of declining enrollment.

The flat enrollment projection also comes as the colleges launch an experiment to offer courses at a buy-one-get-one free rate. The program – dubbed “Go Back to Get Ahead” – offers a total of $6 million in free courses and is aimed at shoring up the college budgets by boosting student enrollment and tuition revenue.

But the college presidents aren’t counting on that increase in tuition.

Instead, they are cutting part-time teaching staff and have planned to hire 41 new full-time teaching staff in their place, among other cuts such as reducing security staff and library hours.

So will there be enough full-time staff to fill the void left by the 297 fewer part-time lecturers?

Norwalk Community College’s proposed budget cuts 92 part-time teachers and hires just three new faculty. Tunxis Community College in Farmington will cut 20 part-time teachers and hire no new faculty.

At Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain, the reduction of part-time lecturers over the last few years has meant a reduction in the number of course sections taught from 856 course sections to 776.

The increase in full-time faculty is good news for many, who say the system’s reliance on part-time staff has decreased the quality of education the schools are providing.

“Recent years continued to see steady increases in the number of courses taught by part-time faculty,” observed Stephen Adair, the faculty representative for the Board of Regents. “While adjunct faculty are able and dedicated teachers, this increase puts further strain on the functions of full-time faculty in serving as student mentors and advisors, in designing and assessing curricula, in engaging in research and scholarship,” Adair told the governing board earlier this month. “In our institutions we believe increasing the use of part-time faculty would reduce our capacity to advance our mission.”

Looking at the proposed CCSU budget that would eliminate 13 part-time teachers and hire seven full-time faculty, finance committee member Richard Balducci said he believes that will be a positive change.

“To me that’s the right way to be going,” he said.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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