In his first major move as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, Juan Salgado this week announced drastic cuts to central office staff to save money and to remake the system to match his new priorities.
But some of the 120 laid off staffers said they worry Salgado, who took over in May, is moving too fast and will wind up undoing some improvements made by the previous administration.
On Thursday, 80 central office employees out of about 400 were laid off, plus another 40 campus staff. Also, Salgado said he is selling the downtown headquarters and reducing the pay and benefits for himself and other officials.
These actions will reduce costs as Salgado prepares next year’s tight budget. For the past two years, the state’s budget stalemate has meant that the City Colleges went without the $35 million it usually gets from the state. As that stalemate continues, Salgado is devising a budget without any state funding, as well as one with state funding.
The City Colleges is also dealing with a drop in tuition income; enrollment is down by about 20 percent over the past four years.
Salgado said no department will be eliminated, but that he is trying to reduce staff in several units.
“[The departments] will be rightsized where our current enrollment is and right sized to the new model that we are actually implementing,” he said.
That “new” model, he said, is more student focused. He adds that central office employees will now work on the college campuses so they can be around students and faculty.
“If you work for a college, the best place to be is on a campus,” he said.
Sherri Farris, who was laid off Thursday, said she understands the budget pressure that Salgado is facing. But she said she worries that laying off so many employees at once will cause breakdowns that will hurt students.
Farris, who worked in strategy, said the previous administration centralized services for students. Farris said this helped students so that they could transfer from one college to another and know what to expect.
Now, she said Salgado seems to be swinging back in the other direction where each of the seven campuses does things on their own, such as like placement tests and scheduling.