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Education

ECC facing major cutbacks to close $9M deficit

ECC's main downtown campus building.
Eileen Buckley
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WBFO News

Erie Community College is looking for either major layoffs or a mass retirement, as the college faces a $9 million projected deficit in the next academic year.

It's the result of years of dropping enrollment, across the three branches of the college, from 14,000 in 2011 to less than half that now. Staff and faculty have stayed relatively steady at 1,800.

"We have about 5,600 that are on campus, either full-time or taking one or two online courses," said new college President David Balkan. "So with that significant of a drop in enrollment, I think we do have to get more creative in figuring exactly out how we provide our services and where we provide them."

A headshot of David Balkin, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red tie.
Erie Community College
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ECC President David Balkan is facing a $9 million deficit.

Balkin said whether the college will continue to have three branches depends on enrollment and activity. He could cut ECC bureaucracy, with full and possibly redundant staffs on each campus for purposes like enrollment.

The problem of falling enrollment in community colleges is a national one, perhaps made worse by COVID-19.

Balkin said it reflects decisions not made.

"What we're really focused on is trying to ensure that we are in a position to better revitalize the college so that we can support the needs of our students and our community," he said. "Again, unfortunately for whatever reason, we haven't really been paring down our resources as enrollment declined and that has resulted in us being in this current position."

Balkin said there are major changes in what two-year schools do, as demand shifts away from two-year degrees to micro-courses to teach a particular skill or to meet the needs of an employer. He said some employers have asked for courses to be taught in their location rather than on campus.