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Skidmore nixes planned layoffs

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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The Skidmore College community breathed a collective sigh of relief on Monday when school officials announced anticipated layoffs would no longer be necessary.

Administrators at the Saratoga Springs liberal arts college said two months ago that as many as 70 of the school's 900 employees would have to be let go - beginning as soon as this month - as the institution faced declining revenue brought on by the recession.

On Monday, though, school officials reversed their earlier forecasts and suggested a combination of cost savings, improved returns on investments and gains in alumni contributions would prevent the cuts.

No employees had been told they were going to lose their jobs, but notices of termination could have arrived as early as this month if the gap in spending and revenue had not been closed.

Nothing will be final until the school completes its fiscal year at the end of May, but Michael Casey, the college's vice president for advancement, said layoffs would all but certainly be avoided.

The cuts could have affected any number of departments, though all tenured and tenure-tracked faculty would have been spared, school officials had said.

A strategic hiring freeze, coupled with 25 early retirements, played a large role in the cost savings that were achieved.

But those moves will come at a price: remaining faculty will assume greater responsibilities while also having their salaries frozen at current levels. Some work hours will also be cut.

In a statement, Skidmore President Philip Glotzbach said the actions will create some "discomfort" on campus, but that they were necessary in order to avoid job cuts.

"None of these changes is simple or easy, but they are required if we are to avoid additional cuts to our work force," he said.

Changes in the use of overtime, the use of part-time and temporary employees and various other initiatives such as using electronic communication in lieu of printed materials will also contribute to savings, officials said.

Officials will also likely look to raise tuition as they push to create what they described as a "sustainable" budget.

Each Skidmore student will pay nearly $40,500 in tuition this year, making the college one of the costliest in the country.

Exactly how much more they could pay next year remains uncertain, but some rate hike is likely, Casey said.

"It's very hard for us to stay flat for a lot of reasons," he said in an interview. "Regardless of everything else that's going on in the world, our costs have gone up."

Enrollment has remained relatively constant despite the recession, he said, noting that the school is raising funds now to retain the level of financial aid distributed to students - more than $30 million.

Quality, Casey added, would not be diminished by the cost-saving measures being put into place.

"The students who are here now would be hard pressed to say that their education is any less valuable or enriching than it was a year ago," he said.


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