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Paul Smiths College President John Mills in his office on Tuesday, shortly after announcing major job cuts at the school. Photo:  Brian Mann
Paul Smiths College President John Mills in his office on Tuesday, shortly after announcing major job cuts at the school. Photo: Brian Mann

Paul Smiths College community takes big hit

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As NCPR reported yesterday, Paul Smiths College has announced deep, across the board budget cuts that will slash 12 percent of the school's jobs.

The board of trustees declared a "state of financial exigency," which will allow the school to cancel or renegotiate the contracts of as many as 23 full- and part-time employees. The move was triggered by a sharp decline in students enrolling at the small college north of Saranac Lake.

For the close-knit, remote campus, the news was a body blow, affecting employees and community members who have worked at the school for years.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

I'm saddened that the faculty have been lost, both for the faculty and their family members.
Tuesday afternoon, Paul Smiths President John Mills was in his office following a round of talks with staff and faculty, many of them now being let go. After 10 years as head of the college, he said this was one of his toughest days. "Sure it is, I mean I know everyone personally who we've let go. It's not easy."

Saddened by the news

Eric Simandle is a professor at Paul Smiths and chair of the school's faculty council. Speaking by phone yesterday, he said the mood on small campus is somber. "I'm saddened that the faculty have been lost, both for the faculty and their family members," he said in a prepared statement. Simandle says the faculty council plans to meet tomorrow with Mills to talk about the job cuts and will then hold a separate meeting to talk about next steps.

These deep cuts come following a sharp downturn in enrollment, from a peak of more than 1,000 students to roughly 800 kids expected to arrive on campus next fall. Mills says it's a trend hitting small liberal arts colleges across the Northeast.

With 190 full- and part-time faculty and staff, Paul Smiths College is one of the Adirondack Park's largest private employers. Photo:  Brian Mann
With 190 full- and part-time faculty and staff, Paul Smiths College is one of the Adirondack Park's largest private employers. Photo: Brian Mann
Paul Smiths administrators are also taking a pay cut under this plan and the school will also suspend payments to the campus retirement program. The downsizing will save the school roughly $2 million a year. But Mills says this step is only part of a process of preparing the college for what he predicts will be tough times. "I think we have to restructure a lot of things that we're doing," he cautioned, noting that colleges with fewer than a thousand students have a difficult time in the education marketplace.

But he added that Paul Smiths College students have a strong track record of finding employment after graduation, which gives the school an opportunity to "survive" the current downturn.

Uncertain times ahead

Mills was scheduled to leave Paul Smiths at the end of next month. He says he'll stay on while the college's board of trustees looks for a replacement.

With 190 employees, Paul Smiths College is one of the Adirondack Park's largest private employers. Of the 23 positions being cut, roughly half involve actual layoffs. The other half involve voluntary departures, or unfilled positions that will now be left empty.

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