Walking back and forth between classes, students may have realized a couple extra seats filled in some classrooms. The fall 2011 state budget cuts have come into effect, eliminating low capacity courses and adding seats to others.
The same budget cuts had KSC students rallying last December on campus and aimed to cut higher education, making cuts to Head Start and local after-school programs.
According to Keene State Today, the near 50 percent cut amounted to KSC losing $6,318,860 in the annual operating budget. “The budget cuts have affected a lot of different aspects to this college,” Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Emile Netzhammer, said. “But we as a college were over budget so we have to make cuts and go through the process of getting to where we want to be.”
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Part of cutting higher education was to eliminate classes with 10 students or less on the active roster. By doing this, classes that were not cut expanded in the number of available seats for students.
The overall changes have decreased the total number of courses offered per semester, which has resulted in the decrease in adjunct professors in order to meet enrollment demand.
Netzhammer said the state budget cuts to higher education have left the college with about a 60 to 75 percent reduction in courses offered per semester, which has left adjunct professors with fewer courses.
“The cuts didn’t affect the tenured professors, and some adjuncts were assigned to the previous courses they have taught,” Netzhammer said. “The course reduction reflects on the paychecks unfortunately.”
According to the KSC Accreditation, based on the total faculty count of 365, full-time faculty teach 63 percent of the student credit hours.
Adjunct faculty teach 37 percent of student credit hours and 39 percent of KSC’s courses. At the 100 level, 175 of the 335 courses are taught by adjuncts who are hired to replace faculty on leave or on retreat or to provide temporary staffing in programs where future enrollment trends are uncertain.
“KSC is committed to hiring tenured faculty more often whenever the opportunity arises as a result of former professors who have left the college,” Netzhammer said.
Keene State College believes that the use of adjuncts increases the diversity of its faculty, brings a variety of viewpoints to the classroom, and in some cases provides expertise which full-time faculty do not possess.
The use of adjuncts also provides release time for tenured faculty to pursue their vacation projects, helps to lower overall class size, and increases the number of courses available so that students can complete degree programs on time.
Nona Fienberg, dean of arts & humanities, said the cuts were necessary in order to fill bigger class sizes.
“It has been necessary to cut back on the numbers of sections overall,” Fienberg said. “Most of the cutbacks have been where we have offered multiple sections of a single course offering, thus it has been necessary to add to the cap in some classes.”
Students have slowly noticed the increase in class size as well as the number of classes offered during enrollment period for the spring semester.
“Picking classes was a bit more antagonizing because you could notice there wasn’t as many classes to choose from as there normally are,” KSC sophomore Sam Harty said. “I notice also that my classes are bigger in size and some teachers are assigned to different courses, which I have mixed feelings about.”
Netzhammer emphasized the stress levels of both students and faculty during the enrollment period at the beginning of a semester. But the college has scheduled conservatively and added additional courses with bigger capacity.
“There has always been a level of stress and anxiety during the scheduling process for students, faculty, and the parents,” Netzhammer said. “I’ve gotten a lot of calls this semester from parents about how stressed their son or daughter is just trying to find available classes to enroll in.”
Fienberg said students had a tougher time finding classes this semester because of the cut back of upper-level electives, since the college had previously offered more than were necessary based on student need.
“Every cut is hard,” Feinberg said. “These have been difficult changes, based upon the state’s 48 percent cut in funding to higher education.”
Seniors emphasize their excitement for graduation and for them, getting the necessary courses and credits are at the top of the list.
“Being able to enroll in all the classes you need and just having that feeling that your almost done is incredible,” KSC senior Tori Vigorito said. “I think change is inevitable and if the college was over budget then cuts need to happen, but it’s sad to not see professors teach the same class.”
Fienberg underlines the importance for higher education and urges students to speak out about the importance of the classroom.
“I hope that students will use this and other opportunities to advocate for the importance of higher education in the future of the state, region, country, and in a democracy,” Fienberg said.
Jon Carey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.