College cuts staff

PAUL SMITHS – Paul Smith’s College President John Mills announced a series of measures Tuesday to address significant fiscal challenges the institution faces.

Those measures include a 12 percent reduction to the college’s 190-person workforce.

Twenty-three full- and part-time jobs will be cut, including faculty, staff and administrators. Eleven of the job losses are layoffs, and 12 will be from open positions and people who have left the college voluntarily.

College trustees approved the plan over the weekend. College officials originally said employees who are laid off will receive severance pay, but today they corrected that, saying instead that the college will honor the terms of contracts with employees who leave. (Editor’s note: The previous sentence has been corrected.)

Mills, who announced his retirement earlier this year, said this is the first time layoffs have occurred in his 10 years on the job. He would not comment on which positions are included in the cuts.

“We’re still trying to make sure everyone understands this situation,” Mills said. “We’ve been growing ever since I’ve been here, but in the last two years we’ve had a serious downturn.”

College spokesman Kenneth Aaron said the expected incoming class this fall is 240 students, about 100 fewer than last fall.

Decreasing enrollment led to budget deficits, so college trustees declared a state of financial exigency. That gave them the flexibility to renegotiate and cancel some contracts.

“I think it’s a perfect storm,” Mills said. “The Northeast is declining in population of college-age kids. New York state alone, between last year and 2020, will have 52,000 less high school graduates.”

Mills said the cost of education is also keeping high school graduates from attending college in New York state.

“The government is not keeping their investment in higher ed, as a common good, at the level that it used to be,” Mills said. “There’s fewer young people in the Northeast, fewer dollars for grant aid and fewer dollars in the family to pay for more expensive items. It’s a combination of all these things.”

Layoffs aren’t just happening at Paul Smith’s. Other private colleges throughout the country have recently announced staff reductions, including St. Michael’s University in Colchester, Vermont.

Mills said senior administrators at Paul Smith’s took pay cuts, which reduced the number of layoffs. The institution is also halting contributions to retirement accounts for the upcoming fiscal year. Other changes are still being explored, such as consolidating administrative departments and eliminating or consolidating academic programs.

Despite the drastic measures, Mills said there is still value to attending private colleges.

“I got a call this morning from a very prestigious hotel, asking if I had two students because they had openings,” Mills said, referencing the college’s culinary and hospitality management programs. “They haven’t even listed the openings because if I have two graduates, they’ll hire them. Our graduates are ready to work, and they’re able to work.”

Mills’ replacement has not been announced yet.

“The difficult decisions have been made,” Mills said. “There is opportunity now to look forward, and develop new opportunities, and the college is clearly ready for a new, energetic person to do that. With all the challenges that higher ed is facing, with wondering if higher education is worth it, I think Paul Smith’s is one of the schools that, with its reputation and its programs, is suited to recover.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or