Chancellor Constance Carroll of the San Diego Community College District wrote a letter to “Colleagues and Friends.” Photo courtesy SDCCD

More than 900 class sections could be eliminated across the three-campus San Diego Community College District and its Continuing Education arm amid COVID-19-driven budget cuts, a districtwide email said Tuesday night.

“Our task right now is to prepare to serve our headcount of 100,000 students … through fewer classes, which will be an expenditure savings of approximately $4.6 million,” said Chancellor Constance Carroll.

She said contract employees — full-timers — would face no layoffs, salary reductions, furloughs or “other negative personnel actions” in cuts beginning with the summer semester.

That left part-time staff — the largest share of district teachers — at risk.

“We will … do our best to minimize the impact on adjunct faculty wherever possible,” Carroll said of those normally working 15 or fewer hours a week.

In a 1,600-word letter landing about 9 p.m., Carroll described uncertainty on the state budget, with “revise” data from Sacramento not arriving until a month after the July 1 start of the fiscal year. It normally comes in May.

School starts in September, so it’s possible the district could change class schedules before then.

But Carroll said that “in the judgment of our board and leadership team, we will need to be conservative in setting our budget parameters for the coming year 2020-21, even more so than in the past.”

Carroll also cited district revenue from the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act.

“[Our] total funding … is $13,739,718,” she said. “The CARES Act guidelines require that a minimum of 50% of the funds [be] allocated directly to students, especially students who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.”

She said San Diego City College, Mesa College, Miramar College and Continuing Education have been gathering data about student needs, especially direct financial needs with many students jobless.

Chart of possible budget cuts in San Diego Community College District.
Possible cuts in San Diego Community College District. FTE means “full-time equivalency” for the purposes of full-time enrolled students or district faculty. Image via Carroll letter

“We hope to distribute this funding to them very soon,” she wrote in a letter to “Colleagues and Friends.”

Carroll, who is retiring in 2021, warned: “It is important for all of us to know that we are sailing into a serious storm, even though the storm’s precise category is yet to be rated.”

She said district officials under Executive Vice Chancellor Bonnie Dowd and others “would be planning a budget that supports the basic instructional, support services and operational needs as best as possible within reduced funding.”

Other savings are expected by reducing personnel costs via attrition, including not replacing the vice chancellor of student services position and other vacant positions, “and a host of other budget reduction strategies.” 

A chart embedded in Carroll’s letter suggested that City College could lose 365 class sections, Mesa College 373 sections, Miramar College 91 and Continuing Education 73 sections.

Carroll said the district’s top priorities continue to be the health and safety of its students and employees, and “the continuity of our educational and operational functions.”

“In doing this difficult work, the Board of Trustees and I remain deeply grateful for the dedication, flexibility, resiliency, creativity and hard work of our faculty, classified professionals and administrators who are doing an extraordinary job in the most challenging of conditions,” she said. “Thank you all!”