In an emotional speech to Northern Virginia Community College teachers and staff members yesterday, college President Richard J. Ernst announced that 29 people would be laid off, in one of the first practical local impacts from Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's spending cuts.
Ernst, addressing about 300 people at the college's Alexandria campus, became choked up and did not finish remarks as he announced that 14 administrative workers and 15 faculty members would be let go to help cut $2.5 million from the college's budget for this year. In addition, 76 vacant jobs will not be filled, bringing the total staff loss to 105.
Practically, the cuts mean that there will be fewer classes and more students in in them. Officials said vocational classes would be especially hard hit. About 57,000 students, many of them part-time, are enrolled among NOVA's five campuses.
"There will be some services to students that will be reduced," said Max L. Bassett, dean of academic and student services. "We can push class sizes up just so much . . . . They'll expand to a certain point, then students will have to be turned away."
The layoffs were forced by Wilder's announcement last week that he plans to cut 5 percent out of Virginia's education budgets, to help end a $1.4 billion shortfall in the state's tax collections.
NOVA, as the Northern Virginia system is commonly known, has more than one-fourth of all the students in the Virginia Community College System. The $67 million budget for the Northern Virginia campuses accounts for more than one-third of all spending in the state's 23-school system.
A statewide community college cutback plan is being prepared for presentation to the governor this month. "We're registered for the fall. This will hit hardest in the second semester," said Joy Graham, a spokeswoman for the Community College System.
J. Wade Gilley, a senior vice president of the Fairfax-based George Mason University, said yesterday that GMU officials expect to hear soon how much they are supposed to cut their fiscal 1991 budget. "We've had an employment freeze since June," he said, noting that contingency plans have been prepared.
Ernst said he called yesterday's meeting to "avoid rumors" that might have spread after his required meeting with the NOVA Faculty Senate on Tuesday in preparation for laying off instructors.
The cuts in teachers and administrators will trim the payroll by about 7 percent of the 1,453 full-time-equivalent positions. The permanent teaching faculty will drop from 495 to 464, a 6 percent reduction. Officials said yesterday it was not clear how temporary and part-time lecturers might be affected.
Annie Lawrence, who has worked for the college for 13 years as secretary for student activities, got a call Tuesday night saying she's being let go. She said she held herself together until Ernst's speech yesterday.
"I was okay until he broke down," Lawrence said. "He couldn't finish."
Tuitions have already been set for the fall, at $28.60 per credit hour for Virginia residents, and Wilder has prohibited further increases to offset the cuts. David Pierce, the chancellor of the state system, said the system's board may ask Wilder for a "modest tuition surcharge" effective in the spring semester.
The new reductions will make it harder to get basic liberal arts classes at desired times -- or at all, for some who register at the last minute, Pierce said.
Classes and programs with traditionally low enrollment are being eliminated across the state. At NOVA, the changes will continue a trend away from occupational and technical programs, a traditional staple of the community college system, and toward an emphasis on students hoping to transfer to four-year schools.
Fall semester victims apparently will include the phasing out of the dental lab technician program at the flagship Annandale campus and elimination of the auto body repair program at the Manassas campus, though the body shop classes will be retained at the Alexandria campus, according to Ernst.
The average class size will increase from 22 to "23 or 24" people as sections with low enrollment are dropped and students face fewer choices, Ernst said. However, some classes last year ran as high as 80 students, forcing some laboratory students to work in shifts.
Ann Lesman, who has taught at NOVA for 15 years, said more students in class will inevitably have an effect on the quality of instruction.
"The difference between 20 people in a class and 30 people in a class will have a tremendous effect," said Lesman, who teaches Spanish. "I'm going to do my darndest, but it's a step backwards."
In an open forum of the teachers and staff members held later yesterday, people worried about what signal these cuts were sending and said the reductions in vocational programs would have particular impact on poorer students.
For instance, the cooperative education program, one aimed at giving students both academic and practical experience in vocational fields, took a hard hit, losing eight of its 10 staff members.
Last spring, 450 students enrolled in NOVA's cooperative program. This year, it will be able to serve only 20 percent of those students, officials said.
"If Governor Wilder is really interested in providing minorities and others with an affordable, self-help education, then this is the program that has been doing that," said Pat Rheams, who has been with the program for 13 years. "The students that I see are not traditional students. They are adults, wanting to be retrained. Is this the direction the college wants to take?"