The consulting firm recommends ECC Syd reductions

ORCHARD PARK, NY (WIVB) – A consulting firm confirmed what the president of SUNY Erie already knew that staff cuts and a significant reduction in ECC South’s footprint are a must.

The college gave rpk Group, a consulting firm, the task of making adjustment recommendations as community college with three campuses faces a declining number of enrollments. Enrollment has dropped nearly 50% over the past 11 years, the institution currently has about 8,000 students enrolled.

Key results from the report showed that ECC did not have the “right size” of faculty, staff, course offerings, or facilities to accommodate low enrollment. In addition, it was found to operate three separate campuses creating “unnecessary administrative and academic structures that maintain overstaffing.”

In March, the ECC announced its plans to combine 16 joint programs planned on both the North and South campuses and bring them together on the Amherst North campus. This means a reduction on the South Campus.

“Probably the biggest consideration honestly was underutilized space, suggesting that there are other things we might be able to do with that space,” ECC President Dr. David Balkin to News 4’s Chris Horvatits in March. “But in addition the demographics. The population growth in Southtowns is expected to be significantly less than the other two places.”

The RPK study suggested moving forward and no longer using the South as a “home” for any academic or administrative departments. This is consistent with another recommendation to unite the school as “a college” that moves away from the multicampus model and eliminates low-enrolled programs.

ECC wants students to know that if any of these recommendations are implemented, they will not affect current, active students. Those who are enrolled in programs that are removed can complete their studies. New students interested in removed programs should find something similar with an active offer.

Here’s a look at the consultant’s specific recommendations for academics:

  • Eliminate programs with fewer than 30 enrolled students (3-year average), declining or single-digit growth (3-year average), and degree production below 10 (3-year average)
  • Monitor programs that are new (since 2018), have fewer than 60 students enrolled, have declining or single-digit growth (3-year average) and have a degree production below 20 (3-year average)
  • Restructure the academic offerings of SUNY Erie under a ‘One College’ model that assigns each department to one ‘home’ location, consolidates departments and department management to reduce the number of departments and eliminates all instances of duplicate department management structures. Do not use the South campus as a ‘home’ for any academic department.

Here are the recommendations on administration and staff:

  • Move all ‘home’ at headquarters to City or North
  • Reduce or redistribute staffing on the South campus in specific functions to reflect the reduction in student and operational activity on that campus
  • Redesign Dean of Students role
  • Adopt common service models for academic and student support functions as well as non-academic administrative support roles
  • Distribute staff across physical campuses based on students’ needs and activity:
  • Create one-stop-shops on the City and North campus for direct student services, such as admissions, scholarships, financial aid, registration and consulting
  • Included in this recommendation is a need to move as many student services online (self-service) or on-demand via virtual engagement as possible to best meet students’ needs
  • All vacancies should be evaluated to determine the possibility of potential redeployment or job closure

Rpk’s assessment confirms what our society already knows. “SUNY Erie must adapt the college’s staff, structure and footprint to the right size to place the college in the best possible position for success,” said Dr. David Balkin, President of SUNY Erie. “Our priorities are confirmed by this report and we will continue to work with all parties involved to evaluate and best implement database recommendations to ensure the college’s long – term sustainability and success.”

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Patrick Ryan is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here.

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