A view of Nassau Community College in Garden City in 2016.

A view of Nassau Community College in Garden City in 2016. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A plan to consolidate courses and merge departments at Nassau Community College to help meet a multimillion dollar deficit has angered faculty who recently approved a vote of no confidence in the school’s top leadership.

Officials with Nassau Community College in Garden City say that the school is facing a roughly $14 million deficit in the 2024-25 budget and have drafted a new academic structure that they say will make the college eventually run more efficiently in the long-term. The plan includes consolidating more than 20 academic areas of study down to six departments. 

“Please know that decisions currently being made regarding mergers, class cancellations and personnel are being done with a heavy heart, intense discussion and within the agreed-upon CBA (collective bargaining agreement) in order to gain efficiencies, increase enrollment and reduce redundancies,” a letter from chief academic officer Maria Conzatti to the campus community read.

The plan does not currently call for layoffs of tenured staff. It is expected to go into effect in August for the fall semester, according to Jerry Kornbluth, the college’s vice president for community and governmental relations.

    WHAT TO KNOW

  • A plan to consolidate courses and merge departments at Nassau Community College to help meet a multimillion dollar deficit has angered faculty.
  • Faculty with the college had recently approved a vote of no confidence in the school’s top leadership.
  • College officials say the school is facing a roughly $14 million deficit in the 2024-25 budget and the new academic structure will make the college eventually run more efficiently.

The union representing the college’s staff, the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, said the faculty recently approved a vote of no confidence in the college’s administration, including Conzatti, the Board of Trustees and senior administration. The group called the mergers “devastating.”

“We cannot serve and, as importantly, retain students with the model this administration is implementing: cutting faculty, collapsing 24 academic departments into 6 academic departments with 6 chairs to serve 11,000 students. Even the smallest community college in the state, Canton Community College, serving less than 1,000 students, still has more than 10 departments,” said NCCFT President Faren Siminoff.

The college had notified at least nine nontenured employees, including lab assistants, that their employment will cease in August, Siminoff said.

The six departments have not yet been made final as they are still being reviewed by the 21 department chairs, Kornbluth said, but the departments are expected to cover subjects such as professional studies, health, humanities and social science.

“Our College faces a pervasive fiscal crisis, as do all New York State Community Colleges,” Conzatti wrote. “The crisis has occurred because of massive reduction in enrollment across New York State colleges during and after the pandemic, exacerbated by continued underfunding. Unfortunately, decisions to ensure the College’s fiscal strength that could have been made gradually over the last thirty years were deferred or avoided completely.”

Officials said that increasing contractual health care and retirement costs have also contributed to the deficit.

Higher education institutions have been struggling statewide. SUNY Fredonia recently announced a plan to discontinue 13 majors. SUNY Potsdam has announced a downsizing plan. Officials at Rockland Community College recently announced layoffs and the faculty there also issued a vote of no confidence in leadership.

Enrollment at Nassau Community College has sharply dropped over the years. In 2011, about 24,000 students attended the school compared with about 11,000 now.

Conzatti was named interim president in 2022. The school has not had a permanent president since 2022 when Jermaine Williams, who was appointed in 2019, left the job.

The no confidence vote, Conzatti wrote, “underscores a relentless multiyear campaign by the current NCCFT leadership that has vociferously opposed the Board’s decision to appoint me as President of the College.”

In June, Nassau County legislators approved a $185 million Nassau Community College budget that kept tuition stable for the second consecutive year and tapped into more than $15 million of reserve funding. State and county funding, along with tuition, each are supposed to fund about a third of NCC's annual operating budget. But the state has been only funding 20% for the last couple of years, Kornbluth said, putting pressure on operating costs and revenue from tuition and the county.

To decide where to merge academics, officials at the school looked at “what programs are working, what programs are not working,” Kornbluth said. “There's a lot of courses that are on our website that have not had students in it for years. If we're going to go to the county and if we're gonna go to the state and ask them for more money — we have to have a plan.”

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