Faculty layoffs impact USCL

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‘Strategic adjustments’ include program cuts

By Reece Murphy

University of South Carolina Lancaster officials said the university will cut more than a dozen positions as part of an ongoing effort to cope with several years of declining financial support from the state.

The announcement comes less than a week after the university announced it will close its physical therapy clinic April 15 following months of efforts aimed at passing on control of its community health services programs.

According to a release emailed Wednesday, the university will eliminate 11 classified permanent administrative staff positions, two instructor positions and five temporary employee positions.

The faculty job cuts will not include any tenured or tenure-track positions.

“These necessary measures are intended to recalibrate and reallocate resources to ensure a health future of service to our community and region,” USCL Dean Dr. Walt Collins said. “We have made every effort to address this challenge without over-reliance on staffing reductions.

“Regrettably, 80 percent of USCL’s budget is comprised of personnel, so it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to balance the budget without impacting people,” he said.

According to the release, the University of South Carolina human resources office is offering counseling and employment displacement resources to employees who are losing their jobs.

University officials said the layoffs are part of a larger, ongoing series of “strategic adjustments” the university is undertaking systemwide to its business model to better manage the loss of $1.2 million in state appropriations since 2008.

The adjustments overall will allow USCL to increase efficiency, focus on its core mission and “position itself for future opportunities,” the release said, and would be ongoing until the state government establishes a “fair funding formula.”

“This experience reflects a national trend that is acutely present here in South Carolina,” Collins said. “The difficult adjustments we undertake now will ensure that we continue to effectively educate students and prepare them to be better citizens; qualified at the highest standard of their chosen profession.”

Officials said the university has already instigated a series of cost-cutting measures in the past 15 months to address the reduction in funding, including the elimination of auxiliary programs with deficits.

Though the release did not mention the eliminated programs, the most high-profile USCL program closure to date was its diabetes education center closed in July 2013.

With its physical therapy clinic closing next month, the university is moving forward with efforts to sell or close its remaining health services programs.

USCL is currently in negotiations with Springs Memorial Hospital to buy and operate its cardiopulmonary clinic. The fate of USCL’s cancer rehabilitation clinic remains uncertain.

The release said the university had already begun reducing its workforce through attrition, or not replacing personnel who retire or resign. The university has also saved money by reducing travel and professional development expenses.

The USCL softball and golf athletic programs have also been eliminated.

Collins said that in addition to the cost cutting measures, USCL is “moving forward with a new way of doing business.”

“In coming decades colleges must be more aggressive in recruiting students,” Collins said. “Additionally, colleges must provide more services to non-traditional and adult students, since jobs in the future will require more education and skill mastery.

“We are positioning ourselves to compete effectively in this new environment with several strategic initiatives,” he said.

USCL will do this in part, the release said, by capitalizing on its position as a Palmetto College campus, a program that offers non-traditional students the opportunity to earn bachelor’s degrees online.

The release said USCL also plans to expand its recruiting efforts to work more closely with the other USCL regional campuses and USC Columbia.

The release said USCL remains committed to controlling the cost of tuition and, along with Palmetto College, plans to remain “the most affordable higher education option for South Carolinians.”

In closing the release, Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins praised Collins for his leadership through the tough decisions.

“Since becoming dean, Dr. Collins has been asked to address some difficult challenges and he has done so without impacting the core mission or programs of USCL,” she said. “High quality academic programs have always been a source of pride at USC Lancaster and we are deeply committed to maintaining that standard of excellence.

“We appreciate Dean Collins’ leadership and we are confident that USCL will continue to be a regional leader in higher education with a tremendous impact in Lancaster and beyond,” she said.


Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151