SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Thirty Savannah State employees were notified Wednesday that they’ll be laid off due to the university’s $3.5 million budget shortfall and declining enrollment numbers.
You may remember, last month, WTOC investigated what the university was doing to improve the enrollment and retention before announcing those cuts.
WTOC was on campus Thursday and spoke to some of the staff members affected. They, of course, didn’t want to go on camera, but they were visibly very frustrated and upset. However, one staff member who isn’t being affected says those are his colleagues and it feels like a huge loss.
For two consecutive years, Savannah State University has been experiencing declining enrollment, making it hard to maintain a balanced budget. The university’s graduation rate is below average, which forced them to make necessary staff cuts.
“If the university doesn’t reach a certain number of enrollment, that could affect their budget because they didn’t reach their projected number,” said Kareem McMichael, Journalism and Mass Communications, Online Content Manager. “It’s a bit alarming because no one really knows who is going to get cut until it happens, so unfortunately, department heads and some other people were blindsided by who was going to be cut until it actually happened.”
McMichael says staff employees are non-teaching employees that do not teach courses, which includes administrative assistants and department chairs. He says although he is not affected directly, he still feels for some of his colleagues who are left scrambling.
“Right now, I am not affected directly, but I feel like indirectly I am, just because I’m sure there’s some people - I don’t know who yet necessarily who is affected by it, and I will admit when they anounced that they were going to be doing some cutbacks I was worried originally early on a few months ago, because I just didn’t know where things stood.”
McMichael says the cuts are department-wide, with a lot of them hitting the Registrar’s Office.
“Once the cuts are made, primarily, I think the goal is to give a more unified balance campus-wide, so if certain enrollment numbers aren’t met, there would at least be enough money in the budget to sustain different needs at the university and different essential personnel,” he said.
He says in the midst of the cuts, he hopes it will help the university continue to provide quality education for current and incoming students.
“It also makes sure that students have all the resources that they need. At the end of the day, that’s what a lot of these cutbacks, although unfortunately it affects people and their jobs, but it’s really to help the university to sustain and to help students that are still going to come in the fall and years to come, to have the best experience that they can at Savannah State University.”
McMichael also says right now, across the board with the University System of Georgia, enrollment rates are declining and Savannah State is no exception. Now, the staff members who were notified that they would be laid off, have until July 15. The university did release a statement saying that they are working with the 30 employees to provide them with any assistance.