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Lakeland Community College tries to stabilize budget with another round of layoffs

The H-Building, or the Health Technologies Building, on Lakeland Community College's campuses in Kirtland.
Lakeland Community College
The H-Building, or the Health Technologies Building, on Lakeland Community College's campuses in Kirtland. Lakeland last week announced it would laying off 17 employees.

Lakeland Community College in Kirtland is laying off 17 employees, the second wave of layoffs since December 2023.

The college is trying to right the ship as it contends with a $3 million budget deficit and a recent state audit that was critical of the college's operations, President Sunil Ahuja said in an interview Monday.

The 17 positions, announced Friday, June 28, included people in higher-level management positions, estimated to save the college about $1.5 million, Ahuja said. The college had been dinged in the audit for not reducing its staffing enough despite enrollment dropping by more than half since 2012.

At the same time as it's making cuts, the college is also investing about $300,000 in what Ahuja called "front-line" positions.

"One of the challenges we had come across was that, you know, that we don't have people to answer basic phone calls from students and parents and families about coming to Lakeland and classes and registration and financial aid. All the basic questions that a student would have, calls were going unanswered just because we did not have staff in those positions," he explained.

The college cut 25 positions late last year, along with almost 30 employees taking a buyout through a voluntary separation program.

Ahuja has only been in the job for a little more than six weeks, but he said his goal is to address all the issues brought up in the state audit, which called Lakeland's financial trajectory "unsustainable" and also called out the college for unnecessary spending on new facilities even as enrollment has dropped.

"Lakeland is absolutely critical to Lake County, critical to the community. We know it is the community's college, and I'm committed to doing what needs to be done to address the various issues (there)," Ahuja said.

Colleges and universities across the country and in Northeast Ohio have had to contend with serious financial headwinds in recent years, as enrollment has dipped across the country while the cost of attendance has only increased.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.