Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

March 14, 1996

CGS plans layoff of some employees

Faced with falling enrollments, the College of General Studies (CGS) will lay off some staff employees and reassign some others.

CGS Interim Dean Robert Comfort said he hopes to announce a reorganization plan to the college's 41 full-time and 10 part-time staff by March 31.

"The plan is to re-look at the way we provide student service," Comfort said. "Essentially, we're starting from scratch and trying to determine the best way we can provide that service — obviously, keeping in mind our current enrollment levels." The total number of CGS students declined by 47.7 percent (from 6,672 to 3,487) between fall 1983 and fall 1996.

Full-time enrollment actually increased during that time by 41.1 percent (from 996 to 1,406), but the number of part-time students dropped by 45.7 percent (from 5,676 to 2,081).

During those years, the total number of CGS staff employees increased from 42 to 51 full- and part-timers.

Provost James Maher recently cut the college's $3.2 million fiscal year 1995-96 budget by $200,000 after CGS failed to meet its spring term enrollment goal.

CGS's budget had been based on a spring 1996 enrollment of 1,386 full-time and 2,070 part-time students. Instead, CGS enrolled just 1,299 full-timers and 1,823 part-timers.

"We can't continue to operate this way," Comfort said. "There's no euphemism for layoffs here. There will be layoffs, but I have stayed away from thinking about specific numbers. What we want to do is determine what the organization should be and then make staffing decisions based on that." Provost Maher said the CGS reorganization "is very much a part of the broader picture of our annual planning, where we are asking the [Provost area] schools to look at themselves, at their missions, and look at whether they are spending their budgets to get at their real problems.

"This one [CGS's planning effort] does have the extra wrinkle that their enrollment numbers would point to a somewhat bigger problem than at most of the other schools," Maher said.

Comfort blamed the college's enrollment problems mainly on declining numbers of 20-40- year-old Allegheny County residents, CGS's target recruiting group, and growing competition among local colleges and universities for those students.

"More and more, schools are trying to make up for shortfalls in their enrollments of full-time, traditional-age students by recruiting larger numbers of non-traditional students," he said. "But if you look at the census figures for Allegheny County between 1980 and 1990, the group that declined most significantly during those years was the 20-40-year-old population." While there is a lot of talk in academe about the growing number of non-traditional college students — mainly part-timers and older students — many of those students are pursuing graduate degrees, not bachelor degrees such as the ones that CGS offers, Comfort noted.

"In general, urban evening colleges in the Northeast are experiencing enrollment declines in their undergraduate programs," he said.

CGS will lose more students after April 1999, when the last of its 300 current business and accounting majors are scheduled to graduate. After that, Pitt undergraduate business degrees will be offered only through the new College of Business Administration.

That change will come about under a new University-wide policy, set to go into effect in fall 1999, mandating that the same degree program cannot be offered by more than one Pitt school.

Comfort emphasized that CGS will not change its basic mission of providing baccalaureate degree programs for students who take classes primarily in the evenings and on weekends. After 1999, he said, the college will continue to provide baccalaureate degrees in a number of majors available only through CGS, including legal studies and the administration of justice.

Actually, CGS plans to enlarge its mission during the next few years by providing student services on behalf of other Pitt schools that want to begin offering evening and weekend classes, Comfort said.

In fall 1998, Pitt will begin offering non-traditional students the option of enrolling in CGS and transferring midway through their programs to the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Such students would graduate with CAS degrees, even though they would take evening and weekend courses throughout their time at Pitt.

"That option will only be for new students coming in at that time [fall 1998]," Comfort said. "All continuing CGS students majoring in arts and sciences fields at that time will graduate with CGS degrees." The college's basic mission was reaffirmed last year by a group of deans that Maher had assigned to evaluate CGS. The group included Comfort; Toni Carbo Bearman of the School of Library and Information Science; Mary L. Briscoe of CAS; Peter Koehler of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; G. Alec Stewart of the University Honors College; and H.J. Zoffer of the Katz Graduate School of Business and the College of Business Administration.

CGS's staff reorganization won't affect the search for a new, dean, according to Provost Maher and Comfort, who is not a candidate for the job and who served on the dean search committee that submitted a list of four finalists to Maher this week.

The provost's office would not release the finalists' names.

Maher said: "If anything, it would probably be something of a relief for the candidates to know that some of the problems regarding staffing and the day-to-day operations of the school will be solved before they come here." Pitt's senior administration hopes to hire the new dean in time for him or her to begin work by Sept. 1, Maher said.

— Bruce Steele

Leave a Reply