Colleges make difficult cuts to staffing, budgets due to coronavirus pandemic

These are tough times for higher education, especially at private, liberal arts colleges like Rollins College in Winter Park.

The school's president, Grant Cornwell, sent out an email saying the college had to cut $16 million from its budget.

“The reality is that the higher education system has had to tighten its belt collectively, and everyone has to do that,” said Prof. Richard Lewin, an associate professor of business at Rollins College.

Rollins said there would be across-the-board cuts to nearly every department and salaries reduced for everyone making more than $45,000 a year. Prof. Lewin said these were painful times for the Rollins family.

“It's very difficult, it's a horrible balancing act. I love Rollins, I care for it, I consider this campus part of my family, anyone in a family doesn't ever want to tighten their belt.”

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Rollins has also cut some staff jobs and open faculty positions have gone unfilled, as classes have moved online.

“College is so much more difficult online. I felt that none of us could focus, the fact that they're cutting funding to professors as opposed to other projects they have going is kind of crazy, because they're what make college for us,” said Sasha Cove, a recent Rollins graduate.

Given these financial strains that many colleges and universities are facing, community colleges say they're ready to step in and pick up the slack. Valencia College officials said they'd seen enrollment jump ten percent. Most new students were laid-off or furloughed workers, but they were also expecting students from other schools to attend online classes.

“What we anticipate is that the demand will be even higher, we're working hard to make sure that we create the capacity necessary so we're able to meet our students and community's demands,” said Kathleen Plinske, Valencia College Provost.

Plinske said Valencia's online system was able to scale-up quickly to meet the new demand.