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Students rallying against staff cuts at Cayuga Community College

Dozens of students are rallying against cuts at Cayuga Community College as trustees work to close a $1.5 million budget gap.
Auburn (WSYR-TV) - Dozens of students are rallying against cuts at Cayuga Community College as trustees work to close a $1.5 million budget gap.

Nearly 75 people showed up, sending the message that savings should not have to come at the expense of students or teachers. Members of the faculty are being asked to consider furloughs, layoffs, or temporary pay cuts of up to four percent of their salaries.

Student Amy Ankrum organized the rally upon learning that her mentor could lose her job.

"I had stopped in to see my advisor last Thursday morning, just to say hello as I usually do, and she was in tears at her desk,” she said.

Trustees have already identified roughly $1-Million in savings through retirements, travel cuts, and by reducing the hours of part-time workers. The campus library closes earlier now. Managerial employees have already accepted furloughs.

College President Daniel Larson blames several factors for the budget shortfall including rising costs, stagnant state aid, problems with student retention and a 5 percent decline in enrollment.

"New York State promised 40 years ago that it would fund up to 40 percent of the college operating budget. New York State did that exactly once and that was 40 years ago. This year, New York State provides 23 percent of the college operating budget,” Larson said.

The result is a growing emphasis on building revenue through enrollment and retention. President Larson oversaw the financing of a $22-Million dorm project in Auburn and the Fulton campus was moved to a larger location last year. Applications spiked upward and administrators projected record-breaking enrollment levels. Instead, the numbers leveled off after hitting an all-time high in 2010. Larson says money earmarked for the expansion projects cannot be used to fund staff salaries.

Students and professors fear that personnel cuts will fuel more significant declines.

"Students will not come here if they realize that we have the lowest percentage of full-time faculty to student ratio of any of the colleges in New York State,” said CCC librarian Sara Davenport, who served on the retention committee.

Student Government President James Molina believes staff status is a weakness at the school.

"Get our educational system stronger. It's weak right now because we have a lot of adjunct professors and we don't have that many full-time. So, we're trying to get more full-time professors to give all they can to us,” he said.

Ankrum graduates this month. She's determined to leave her professors in good hands.

"They gave me a voice. They gave me inspiration. They gave me everything that I need to further my education and be the best that I can be. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I didn't do the same for them,” she said.

Workers hoping to learn more about potential layoffs will need to wait until next week.

The board delayed its decision, pending more negotiations with employee bargaining units. Members meet again at 6:00 p.m. on May 13, 2013 in Auburn.

Larson will hold an open meeting for students in Auburn on Friday morning.

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