SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced plans to reopen for the fall 2020 semester amid a series of cost-saving strategies that are required to sustain the college in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the school. Revenue curtailment could result in a gap of up to $17 million, with cutbacks including reductions in the number of tenured and non-tenured faculty.
The college announced that students will return to campus for the fall semester with the majority of courses offered through a remote, synchronous delivery, with the exception of certain modules in health-sciences courses that require in-person delivery, such as labs. While the semester will remain at 15 weeks, courses will not be held on campus following the Thanksgiving break.
In March, AIC made the unanticipated move to remote learning in response to COVID-19. This resulted in extensive technology costs associated with delivering content remotely through the semester’s end and residence and meal-plan reimbursements. About one-third of the administrative staff, totaling nearly 100 individuals, were either furloughed or laid off. This initial round of reductions did not include any cuts to faculty.
In April, the college engaged in an institution-wide process to identify areas to reduce costs. Like other colleges and universities, AIC started a planning process for the fall semester anticipating fewer students would be attending college at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Both administration and faculty were advised to identify areas from which to reduce expenditures. AIC President Vincent Maniaci engaged faculty senate leadership, advising that significant cuts were required to reduce expenses in response to the needs of the 2021 budget and the pandemic-induced loss of revenue. Maniaci apprised senate leadership that these reductions could not be realized through operational cuts alone and would include tenured and non-tenured faculty positions as a last resort.
Three task forces were convened by Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Mika Nash to address recruitment, retention, and faculty workload. As part of the shared-governance process, the faculty workload task force was invited and encouraged to participate in the process of identifying the $1.5 million needed in reductions from the academic budget. The recommendations of the faculty workload task force ultimately did not meet the threshold for cuts that was given to them. As a result, AIC’s administration will be implementing reductions that will result in both tenured and non-tenured faculty loss.
“Ultimately, this pandemic has forced decisions that no institution ever wants to make, and losing programs, faculty, and staff is incredibly difficult,” Nash said. “We wish the outcome were different.”
According to Frank Colaccino, who chairs the AIC board of trustees, a 1973 graduate of AIC, cuts to faculty positions are a reflection of declining enrollment in a number of programs.
“American International College is no stranger to making very tough decisions in order to secure the future of the institution,” he said. “With 72% of students enrolled in just 28% of programs offered, in order to remain viable, the college cannot continue to support programs that have experienced continually declining enrollments. The impact of the pandemic has added to the criticality and urgency of addressing this situation.”
Added Maniaci, “as American International College prepares to open this fall as it has for 135 years, it will do so in support of the academic enterprise with a focus on the future of the institution and furthering its vision of providing access and opportunity to a diverse community of students.”