By James M. Odato
The interim president of Paul Smith’s College is warning of staffing cuts as he prepares the next budget for the struggling Adirondack institution.
As he seeks to grow enrollment and asks instructors to sign teaching contracts, Dan Kelting advised faculty that layoffs could be on the horizon amid a “difficult time.”
“Given enrollment challenges, it may be necessary for PSC to institute layoffs,” Kelting said in a letter obtained by the Explorer.
Kelting made the revelation in a May 4 email to faculty. “I understand that inclusion of this statement will produce concern and anxiety among the faculty, for which I am truly sorry,” he said. “But I could not in good conscience just sign your contracts as typically written while also knowing full well that some of you may be laid off.”
His advisory comes as Paul Smith’s College has been urging accreditation entities to authorize its plan to become part of The Fedcap Group, a nonprofit organization that helps prepare people for the workforce.
Fedcap President Christine McMahon has called the deal an acquisition by Fedcap, according to Paul Smith’s alumnus Kevin Richardson, who attended a meeting with her in January. Fedcap has been assisting Paul Smith’s administration and assuming college responsibilities for several months.
Kelting’s warning also arrives as Paul Smith’s, working with Fedcap officials, has been trying to increase enrollment at the four-year-school, whose student body totaled fewer than 600 students this year, according to Kelting’s emails. That number is hundreds below capacity.
“Since our budget is not finalized, I don’t know the extent of cuts that may be needed,” he warned.
Kelting estimated 439 returning students this fall. The school listed 593 students at the start of the spring semester, he said. The push to enroll students and grow its relationship with Fedcap students and training programs in New York City and elsewhere could result in an influx from the 1,168 submitted applications to the college.
Kelting, and the Paul Smith’s media department, did not respond to an inquiry about the message to faculty.
The school’s precarious finances are not unusual among small private colleges, some of which were forced to close in recent years.
Paul Smith’s plays a major role in the economy and of research of the Adirondacks and its assets include lakeside property and vast tracks of forests and trails.
Earlier this year, its media liaison, Zoe Smith, said the college has no plans to build on or to develop its 14,000 acres. She called the relationship with Fedcap an acquisition by the bigger nonprofit but that the college board would remain “strong and independent” and able to select the college’s president.
“Unlike a merger which would combine the two organizations into a single new entity, this would be acquisition,” she said. Paul Smith’s would remain a separate nonprofit, she said.