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Frequently Asked Questions (last updated 5/02/23)

General Overview

Is CCA alone in this situation or how does CCA compare to other art/design higher ed institutions?

CCA is experiencing the same trends that are impacting all of higher education and art schools more specifically. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports that, across the nation, enrollment has declined by more than 4% over the past two years.

Why reductions. Can’t we just generate more revenue?

The majority of CCA’s revenue comes from student tuition. We are careful about setting rates that are on par with the market and CCA’s offering as a college. Affordability is a core commitment for CCA, so any increases in tuition are accompanied by increases in financial support for our students.

Can we stop construction on Double Ground and redirect those funds?

Funds for Double Ground are restricted to that project, so we are able to keep construction on track and on budget in ways that do not affect the operating budget. Additionally, completing the Double Ground project will allow us to move staff and programs out of non-adjacent spaces that are owned or leased by CCA, freeing up those funds to be used elsewhere in support of the College's mission.

Is CCA going to close?

No. These adjustments are being made to balance the budget based on current enrollment. CCA’s financial outlook is positive, based on enrollment projections in line with the balanced budget, CCA’s investments and facilities.

Will this be the end of reductions to the budget?

It would be disingenuous to say “yes” as there is no way to predict exactly what will happen in the future relative to the economy or enrollment. Having said that, these reductions are based on CCA’s financial model and our best sense of enrollment trends, so we feel confident that we are being precise in the level of reductions required to balance the FY24 budget. Our focus is on maintaining a balanced budget, keeping our costs aligned with our revenues. This is the way to keep CCA strong for the future.

How will faculty be impacted?

It is not necessary to reduce the faculty headcount. The size of our faculty adjusts annually via retirements and new hires in line with enrollment and the scheduling of classes. We will continue to hire ranked and adjunct faculty as needed.

Will this impact the search for a new president?

The search for CCA’s next president will continue, led by our search firm, Isaacson, Miller, and a committee made up of staff, faculty, and board members. Our leadership team is committed to the college’s financial, operational, and strategic sustainability and success.. This includes a structure that supports both the Presidential and CFO transitions.

How does the interim CFO structure impact this process? How are they related?

We are confident in the leadership team stepping in to lead the work of the CFO as an interim solution during this transition. The interim CFO and COO will provide clear and frequent communication updates about the process to ensure that all staff and faculty are up-to-speed on key milestones over the coming weeks. The structure will provide the strategic oversight and management that are so essential to CCA.

Will there be any changes to CCA’s mission or goals?

We remain committed to our mission and goals, and as we reduce budgets, we will do so in ways that preserve our commitment to student enrollment — attracting talented students and retaining them with our distinctively CCA in-class, in-studio, residential college experience. Though difficult decisions will need to be made in the short-term, we are committed to creating a structure that meets our strategic vision and mission moving forward to meet the evolving needs of our students and industry.

What are the next steps?

We expect that the process of identifying the staff positions to be eliminated will take place over the next 45 days. An update will be shared mid-April, with the hopes of sharing outcomes of these reductions in May. Managers will also be invited to sessions that will provide more information and resources to share with their teams. Please visit CCA’s Portal page for more information and updates as they are available.

Why did we choose to inform the community about these changes so far ahead of time, when we don’t have all of the specifics to share?

We chose to be more transparent with our community around our current financial state and the steps that need to be taken to balance the budget. We recognize the uncertainty that this information causes but felt that being more open at this important time was best.

The length of our timeline is also impacted by the requirements outlined in the staff CBA, and will involve conversations with the union. We didn’t feel that it would be appropriate to engage with the union without notifying the community.

Process & Decision Making

How many will be laid off?

We are able to provide some additional information regarding the number of positions that will be impacted by staff reductions. We expect layoffs to impact approximately 8% of currently filled staff positions. We will find additional savings from unfilled positions to meet our balanced budget target. Of these positions, we anticipate that approximately one third will be exempt positions and two thirds will be non-exempt positions. Please note that these are still estimates and may be subject to fluctuate.

When will layoffs take place?

We anticipate that they will take place in May.

How will the college comply with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act?

The college will be in compliance with the WARN Act, if necessary and adjust timelines accordingly. However, we don’t currently anticipate that the number of layoffs will meet the threshold under the Act.

How are employees selected for layoffs?

Positions are selected for reduction, not employees. Positions are selected based on which positions should be retained to fulfill the future work of the department, which aligns with the college’s core mission.

If there are multiple employees in a department who work in the same position and they have equivalent skills for future work, seniority (length of service) can be a determining factor.

How do the layoffs impact the diversity of our workforce?

With the involvement and expertise of our VP DEIB, we expect that the reduction of the staff positions will not harm the college in our dedication to policies for a diverse, equitable and inclusive community. Positions are not selected on the basis of protected categories of employees and the college does not expect to have a result of demographics that will diminish the overall diversity of our staff employees.

What is the process that CCA will follow for layoffs?

We expect this to be about a six-eight week process.

  • Division leaders are working with HR to identify opportunities to rethink and restructure their approach to their particular plans, as well as re-prioritize what we do.
  • Mid-April we plan to make final decisions around impacted departments and job families, and notify the union.
  • The college and the union will engage in negotiations per Article 8 (Effects Bargaining) and Article 26 (Layoff and Severance) in the CBA.
  • Review for equity across recommended positions and employees with VP DEIB.
  • Specific, individual positions identified by May and staff notified.

What alternatives to layoffs has CCA considered?

We used reserves during the pandemic to try to avoid this, but recovery has gone on longer than expected. Unfortunately, given the level of cost associated with salaries and benefits, reducing the size of our staff is the only way to balance our budget, not just for the coming year but in the long-term.

  • Operating budget gap alternatives used over the last few years:
    • Federal dollars
    • Endowment
    • Reserves
    • Restricted Gift Funds
  • Other staffing adjustments that have been considered include:
    • Furloughs
    • Hiring freeze
    • Salary reductions
    • Reduced work schedules
    • Voluntary programs

How will the workload be distributed after the layoffs? How will CCA ensure that remaining employees are not overworked?

We have to focus on prioritizing work and reducing work, a process that will require a high level of collaboration across the college. In doing so, we will be reimagining what services we provide and reprioritizing what we do as CCA.

Managers will be supported through this process. It will be important to ensure realistic job descriptions and ability to complete the work of the job descriptions during a normal work week. They will need to set expectations around capacity as they respond to service requests.

The mental health and wellness of our staff is important and we want to ensure appropriate workloads.

An article in the CBA specifically notes an engagement with the union if departments are reorganized resulting in substantially increased workloads, so we are reviewing this very carefully.

Will there be any opportunities for me to be rehired in the future?

Employees who are laid off will be eligible for rehire at CCA. For employees covered by the CBA, Article 26. Layoff, Recall, & Severance Rights outlines the process regarding re-employment rights for employees.

How does the college plan to lay off workers in a way that is equitable, keeping in mind that our lowest-paid workers are the least prepared for the shock of a job loss?

A critical step in this process is to conduct an analysis of the positions selected for reduction to determine if it will result in the disproportionate dismissal of underrepresented groups or any other group protected by federal employment discrimination laws. We are reviewing positions at all levels of the college as we consider the long-term financial outlook of CCA. There will be severance packages offered to those who are impacted by the staff reductions. We know it will be difficult news for many and we will support staff to the best of our ability during the transition.

How will CCA support staff morale during this difficult time?

We acknowledge that this is a time of uncertainty and that staff morale will be impacted. Our hope is that by being transparent about the process and providing information to the community as it is available, staff will feel included and better informed about the next steps. Our goal is to navigate this process as quickly as appropriate. Once the reductions are made, we will look for ways to come together as a community to heal and rebuild. Though these changes are difficult, reductions are necessary to support a sustainable future for CCA.

If our communal goal is to provide services to students, what is the logic of laying off staff that serves our students? Wouldn’t that create a larger problem and impact enrollment?

Staffing reduction recommendations are being reviewed with impact in mind and placing the student experience first. Impacted departments will be working on prioritizing and reshaping services as necessary.

What positions are being cut?

Positions and budgets are currently being reviewed across the college, and we do not yet know which position will be impacted. In mid-April, we will notify the union of departments and job families that will be impacted. A campus-wide communication will be shared in the coming weeks with an update on where we are at in this process.

Will there be a pause on hiring? We have open positions still on our website.

We are not instituting a hiring freeze at this time. We are being very thoughtful about our hiring protocols and are considering unfilled positions as a part of the overall staffing review process.

How are you working with the union?

In mid-April, we plan to make final decisions around impacted departments and job families, which is when we will notify the union. The college and the union will then engage in negotiations per Article 8 (Effects Bargaining) and Article 26 (Layoff and Severance) in the CBA. The CBA notes that we must allow at least 30 days for these negotiations. This is considered the notice period and the parties will meet to bargain over the effects of the layoffs, including consideration of alternatives to layoffs.

I’m most concerned that budget-cut decisions are being made without engaging with faculty, staff, and students. How are you getting feedback from multiple stakeholders?

Due to the sensitive and complex nature of staff reductions, and the need to move this process forward in a reasonable time frame in order to provide answers and clarity as quickly as possible, campus-wide engagement will be a challenge. We are committed to ongoing communication about the process and next steps, ensuring that all staff, faculty, and students are up-to-date.

The CCA leadership team and HR department will work closely with all departments and managers across the college to have conversations about re-prioritization of work and expectation setting after reduction decisions have been made.

Is it true that you are looking to reduce the budget by 10% by laying off 10% of the workers whose combined salaries combine less them 7% of the college's operating budget?

No. We are looking at reducing both operating expenses and staff salaries by 10%. Staff salaries and benefits make up 36% of the overall budget and we are considering both filled staff positions and unfilled positions to meet our balanced budget target.

Will the cuts happen in waves, or all at once?

The layoffs will occur in one period of time; this will not be a continuous process.

Will Bay Area employees be prioritized for retention over remote employees? Will there be a final return-to-campus call for those still living outside of the Bay Area, especially in teams where career opportunities are limited by remote personnel?

Positions are selected based on which positions should be retained to fulfill the future work of the department, which aligns with the college’s core mission. Work modes are assigned to each position and align with the work that the position does. We have shifted our workforce culture to encompass different work modes as a way to offer more flexibility and productivity, and to respond to employees’ needs. We continue to monitor these options to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of our students and the college’s mission.

Staffing & Compensation

Can CCA just adjust senior leadership and president salaries? Will the layoffs impact upper management and senior-level staff?

In order to balance the budget and to ensure that we are prioritizing both the short-term and long-term needs of the college, it will be essential to review all staff positions at all levels of the college. We have to make structural, not temporary, changes to our staffing model in order to achieve a structural balance in the budget where revenues and expenses are aligned. Adjusting pay and salary will not solve the long-term budgeting needs.

Our compensation strategy for all positions draws on data from peer schools and our San Francisco location to set salary levels for positions, including the President. In the case of the presidential search, we have confirmed with our search partner that the compensation level for this position is appropriate to attract the level of candidates to lead CCA into the future.

Will the lower staff numbers translate to better wages for the people who remain, or is a competitive salary only reserved for the president?

The college strives to deliver a total compensation package that is relevant and reflective of our industry and enables us to attract, motivate, and retain talented staff for successful careers at CCA. We utilize an equitable, clear, and progressive process that is within the college’s available resources. As previously mentioned, we also adhere to a compensation strategy that draws on data from peer schools and our location to set salary levels for all positions. A balanced budget that appropriately aligns expenses with revenue will provide the college with opportunities to continue to invest in various critical areas, such as staffing.

Are non-unionized, middle management jobs also being considered as part of the reductions?

Yes, the review of positions is at all levels of the college, including both non-unionized staff and middle management.. This is essential to CCA’s long-term outlook.

Will there be a discussion of moving part-time/limiting hours prior to fully eliminating a role/position?

Yes, those options are also being considered, along with departmental reorganization plans. If you are interested in a reducing your time voluntarily, please speak with your manager.

How many full-time staff do we have here at CCA? Approximately what percentage of salaries will need to be cut, and how much money is currently needed to balance our budget?

We have 255 staff positions currently filled, including both full-time and part-time staff. We expect layoffs to impact approximately 8% of currently filled staff positions and will find additional savings from unfilled positions to meet our balanced budget target.

Will the new president's salary be significantly higher than Stephen Beal's current salary? I've heard rumors of a $1 million salary for the next president.

Our presidential search partner has confirmed compensation level for this position is appropriate to attract candidates at this level. We are taking everyone’s comments and concerns into consideration as we review the compensation package for the incoming president. As is the case with all positions, it is important that CCA compensation is aligned with the marketplace for similar positions.

CCA is committed to greater financial transparency and will continue to provide more information about the presidential search process on our website.

Are there any numbers available to track the historic ratio between budget spending on faculty salaries, vs. admin/support salaries at CCA?

Faculty salaries trend more naturally to classes offered and staff salaries do not. Therefore, faculty salaries are better balanced with student headcount, however, we are now balancing staff salaries. Please see the image below for a visual over the years.

Screen Shot 2023-04-10 at 8.21.46 PM

Will CCA continue to cover staff union dues? If we are at the point of layoffs, shouldn't that cost be deferred to the staff members that participate in the union? While not all voted yes to unionize, it is a reality of being part of a union and should have been anticipated when staff voted to unionize.

The college does not cover the cost of union dues. While the union dues were incorporated on a one-time basis with union staff increases last year, when the CBA went into effect, it became the responsibility of the staff member to pay union dues and is not subsidized by the college.

Staff Workloads

All departments and positions seem to be overwhelmed with their workloads. With the increase in work due to the campus expansion and unification, as well as vacant positions that haven’t been filled.

Having manageable workloads for all staff is important. The Unification project has moments in time, such as the summer of 2022, where work effort was increased. Such efforts should fall within work hours and other work reprioritized in consultation with one's manager. Chronic and ongoing overwork is a serious problem and should be addressed through redistribution or prioritization of work.

Is there a concern that staff cuts will further degrade things like student services, IT services, and facilities, which will make it even harder to recruit and retain students? It’s hard to imagine less staff. Why is the college’s first instinct budget-wise to cut staff?

The College has historically cut the operating budget before cutting staff. However, the structural deficit that we are facing cannot be addressed by cutting the operating budget alone. Cuts to both staff and operations are currently being worked on to balance the budget.

Staffing reduction recommendations are being reviewed with impact in mind and placing the student experience first. Impacted departments will be working on prioritizing and reshaping services as necessary.

Workloads are increasing because of unification, less and less staff to do the jobs. Every department has had huge cuts, people are overwhelmed. Want to give you the opportunity to tell us if you’re really aware of how people about this?

Workloads should not be increasing because of unification. Hourly workers should not be working beyond their allotted shift times. As needed, Managers can help to prioritize or distribute work appropriately.


Is there a severance package for laid off employees? Will I receive benefits after being laid off?

Yes, there will be a severance package for all laid off employees. The college will engage in discussions with the union regarding Article 26. Layoff, Recall, & Severance Rights in the CBA. For union eligible employees, please review this article for more details around severance packages. Severance packages include pay based on tenure and as well as health insurance coverage for a certain period of time.

For non-union employees, the college will offer comparable severance packages.

All employees will receive their accrued vacation time paid out upon separation as well.

Additionally, individuals would be eligible to access the Employee Assistance Program for resources and support while they remain covered by the college’s health plan. They are also eligible to enroll in COBRA, after the health plan terminates. Here are some general resources regarding COBRA and Covered California, but CCA will provide specific information regarding our COBRA plans upon termination.

Employees are also eligible to apply for unemployment insurance through the state of California (or their home state if they are remote). See more details below.

Can I apply for unemployment insurance? How?

Yes. Please find more information on the EDD website found here.

What can it provide?

How can I prepare for the layoffs and what resources are available to help me?

Here are some resources for support:

  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Community sessions facilitate by EAP
  • Conversations with your manager
  • Manager sessions the week of April 3
  • All Chairs meeting on April 12
  • Team and division meetings

Campus Development & Planning

When will the Oakland campus be sold? Can that money be used for our operating budget?

We don't know yet when the sale of the Oakland campus will be complete. We have an option agreement with a development group that has been working their way through the City of Oakland entitlement process. This process was delayed by the pandemic. We hope that the City of Oakland process is completed this fall and that the developer chooses to move forward. If so, that will begin a process of negotiation.

That said, CCA has been scaffolding its operating budget with reserves and other sources of funds for the past four years. The college has a significant need for deferred maintenance on its facilities that needs to be addressed. We cannot continue with the practice of utilizing funds to plug the operating budget gap. Income and expenses need to be aligned for a healthy, functioning, and sustainable college into the future.

How does the college reconcile spending $100 million+ on a boutique building that arguably we don’t need while laying off staff, cutting faculty salaries, cutting retirement benefits, and letting our existing infrastructure and services decay?

The vision for the unification of the college in San Francisco began in 2010. Much work was done at the time to assess how and where to unify. Two-thirds of the student body has been in San Francisco for many years, and we had the ability to procure and expand onto our "back-lot." in San Francisco, whereas we had no such expansion potential at our campus in Oakland.

The construction that will be completed in the summer of 2024 will include only two of the three pavilions that were part of the original design as a way to adjust for the growth in building expenses and our reduction in enrollment. We aim to bring our programs that have been located off-campus (MFA Fine Arts, Print Media, Photography, Textiles, and the Wattis) back to the main campus.

We all understand that enrollments have been declining and that CCA has long been a “tuition-driven” college. How has the consolidation of the campus and building of dorms figured into our current situation?

The unification of the academic programs in San Francisco has not been a factor in our Operating budget hardships. The majority of the funds for the Double Ground capital project are from philanthropy (the Maker/Meets/Future Capital Campaign), additionally, some funding has come from past sales of properties in Oakland (Webster, Broadway, Clifton, the 4-Plex), and a plan to sell the Kansas Street property that currently houses the Wattis and the Textiles program. The Wattis and Textiles programs will soon be housed on our newly-expanded Double Ground campus.

CCA's Operating budget did not fund the construction of both Founders and Blattner Halls. Founders was funded via a public/private partnership and Blattner was built by Simon Blattner. CCA is the master lessee of the building.

I read that JP Morgan will purchase First Republic Bank. What happens to our loan agreement?

On May 1, it was announced that JP Morgan has acquired First Republic Bank’s deposits and a substantial amount of their assets. Our cash deposits are now in place with JP Morgan, our nation’s largest bank.

The members of the First Republic team that we have worked with for many years are currently in place under the banner of JP Morgan. We expect a smooth transition in our operations and look forward to working with JP Morgan as a partner to meet our financial needs. 

Board Support & Involvement

What role is the Board of Trustees playing in the current crisis? How are we utilizing and activating our board?

The role of CCA’s board (as it is for all nonprofits) is to provide financial oversight which includes approving the annual operating budget and steering CCA toward a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical governance and financial management policy. CCA trustees are active donors and partners in fundraising for the annual budget and special projects such as the campus expansion.

Annually, trustees partner with Advancement to raise between $3 million and $4 million for the operating budget supporting scholarships, academic programs, and public programs. The board also fundraises for our capital campaign which was designed to include a substantial goal for annual operating support. Of $120 million raised for the campaign between 2016 and 2023, $22.7 million of these funds have been dedicated to CCA’s annual budget. In addition, the campaign goal was increased in FY21 from $115.5 million to $123 million to commit an additional $7.5 million to help bridge the operating budget gap in FY22, FY23, and FY24.

Student Retention

How does the college think it can continue to attract and retain students if it can’t adequately staff the shops, the libraries, the program administration, etc., so that basic operations run smoothly? Is there a concern that staff cuts will further degrade things like student services, IT services, and facilities.

Student experience and the delivery of high-quality education as well as a commitment to a vibrant making culture is our top priority and will continue to be so. The goal is to strategically redesign some of our teaching and learning services so that the delivery of curriculum, residential life, and student-facing services are still experienced at a consistent and high quality. We are not approaching this with the idea of doing the same with less; we are committed to doing better differently. All services of the college will move forward with this as a primary goal. We are looking at how to do things differently, increase efficiency, reduce redundancies, and maintain a vibrant living and learning culture.

How does the college plan to successfully recruit students with less frontline, student-supporting staff?

The strategic resizing of our employee base of faculty and staff is aligned with our peer and competitor schools. We are not approaching this college-wide reorganizing with the goal of less support. Support will be delivered differently and the recruitment, retention, and experience of our students will be maintained as a critical priority.

Will there be a tuition increase next year? By how much?

For the 2023-2024 academic year, undergraduate tuition is $57,096, which is an increase of 6%. For graduate students, tuition for the academic year 2023–2024 ranges from $36,108 to $72,216, depending on the student’s course of study. At the same time, the institutional scholarship budget for 2023-24 is $27.2 million, which is an increase of 13%.

The increase is due to the projected inflationary factors across the country and is in alignment with tuition costs at peer institutions. Historically, CCA increased tuition before the pandemic between 4-5% per year (for the previous 10+ years), which aligned with the rest of higher education, especially other art and design colleges in high-cost locations (like San Francisco, New York, Chicago). During the pandemic, most art and design colleges increased tuition by approximately 3-4%; CCA increased its tuition by an average of 2% annually over the three academic years of 2020-21 to 2022-23.

Enrollment Projections

If there has been a long-anticipated drop in the college-going population, why were steps not taken to insulate this institution from that long-anticipated moment? How does the projected enrollment cliff in 2025/2026 factor into this difficult work of cutting staff positions and restructuring departments?

This has been figured into enrollment projections all along. What we are dealing with is not a predicted enrollment cliff, but rather the impacts of a very unpredictable global pandemic and prolonged recovery period. The projected enrollment cliff is not extreme; it will be gradual. It is predicted that art and design schools will weather the demographic shifts with more consistency and less impact.

I wanted to ask about the 20% enrollment decrease vs. a 10% budget cut. How is the additional 10% deficit covered if we’re almost completely tuition-driven?

Over the last three years we have made incremental reductions to the operating expenses of the college and the faculty salaries budget has already been responsively reduced as well. The staff budget is the only remaining budget that needs to be adjusted to our size of enrollment.

The projection for student enrollments is lower than expected. Could you speculate or explain why that is occurring and what measures are being taken to increase enrollment?

CCA enrollment has declined during the pandemic due to three factors. First, new student enrollment declined the past three years, and while on the path to recovery, has not reached the average pre-pandemic level of new students entering CCA at the undergraduate or graduate level. This was due to students postponing/deferring college enrollment, international visa/travel restrictions, and the enrollment impact on community colleges who are a primary source of our transfer enrollment.

Second, continuing students retention declined during the pandemic, and while also getting close to recovery compared to pre-pandemic enrollment, was due to students taking a leave of absence during as CCA was teaching online and in hybrid. Many of these students have returned, but not all.

Finally, the number of graduating students each year, for the past three years during the pandemic, stayed close to pre-pandemic levels. With smaller classes, the number of graduating students will naturally come in alignment with CCA enrollment and down by comparison to the past three years.

During the first and second academic years during the pandemic, everyone in higher education, not just CCA, expected both new and continuing student enrollment to recover much quicker to pre-pandemic levels. While for CCA those are both recovering and approaching pre-pandemic levels, the impact of three full academic years now leaves CCA smaller than it was before the pandemic and will continue to take a number of years for CCA to approach pre-pandemic levels of enrollment.