April is the cruellest month
-TS Eliot, 1922
In March – which feels so long ago – I described various ways the pandemic could injure higher education’s finances, pushing some colleges and universities to make painful cuts, while others stepped closer to the abyss.
It wasn’t the most imaginative or counterintuitive forecast I’ve ever written. And now we see the first wave of COVID-19 cuts in higher education.
They occur across the United States, hitting every kind of campus, from well-endowed research universities to state universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. The cuts take a range of forms, from layoffs to furloughs to compensation reductions:
- Antioch College furloughed 27 staff and cut hours and/or compensation to others.
- Atlantic Cape Community College laid off about 100 staff who could not work remotely.
- Bob Jones University furloughed an unspecified number of staff.
- Boston University laid off more than 1600 student workers.
- Bristol Community College laid off 136 part time workers.
- Drew University furloughed some staff.
- Guilford College furloughed 166 people, or “[s]lightly more than half of the college’s 250 non-faculty employees.”
- Harvard University froze all kinds of raises and projects, while cutting the salaries of its president, VP, and provost.
- Johns Hopkins University announced a series of cuts, including this strategy: “divisional leaders will exercise their discretion and have to consider furloughs or layoffs when necessary to meet their financial and strategic objectives in such a constrained budget environment…” They may face a $375 million deficit this fall.
- Kent State University called for a 20% budget cut, which will be carried out by “reducing operating budgets by 20%, enacting a hiring freeze, postponing new campus construction projects, … reducing spending on athletics,” and cutting senior administrator salaries.
- Keuka College furloughed an undetermined number of staff while issuing wage cuts.
- Lake Superior State University will apparently commence layoffs.
- Lewis-Clark State College ended around 16 staff positions and is working on cuts to faculty.
- Marquette University furloughed around 250 staff, notably those who could no longer work remotely.
- Merrimack College laid off 30 staff.
- Oakland University cut salaries of several senior administrators.
- Ohio University announced it would lay off 140 staff. “This (is) our first significant personnel reduction,” [Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson] said.”
- Portland State University will furlough 106 staff.
- Rochester Institute of Technology will furlough some staff and “is prepared to introduce a salary reduction program.”
- Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, cut senior administration compensation and signaled it would hire fewer adjuncts this summer and fall.
- Smith College cut or requested voluntary cuts to some senior administrators’ compensation.
- Southern Oregon University furloughed 395 staff.
- Syracuse University cut some staff compensation and froze merit pay increases.
- Union College furloughed 30% of its staff.
- The University of Akron announced plans to cut academic programs and student athletics.
- The University of Alaska will furlough 166 administrators.
- The University of Arizona announced furloughs and pay cuts to a range of employees. It also withdrew financial aid packages to grad students.
- The University of Kentucky furloughed 1700 staff, nearly all in medical care.
- The University of Louisville furloughed “some employees and will institute pay cuts for those earning at least $100,000…”
- The University of Massachusetts Medical School furloughed 100 staff.
- The University of Michigan called for cuts to senior administrator compensation as well as voluntary staff furloughs, based on expecting at least a $1 billion loss.
- The University of Missouri laid off more than 40 people, mostly in their hospital.
- The University of Montana laid off 63 staff (although the headline says “furlough”).
- The University of New Haven cut staff and faculty compensation, furloughing some.
- The University of Oregon laid off 282 people.
- The University of Rochester announced it would cut some senior administration compensation and furlough some staff.
- The University of Tulsa furloughed a number of staff, focusing on those who cannot work remotely. UT also had its senior leaders have their compensation hit by “a reduction of the equivalent of two weeks of our salaries…”
- Several University of Vermont senior administrators saw compensation or support cuts.
- The University of Wisconsin system will furlough staff and also laid off some number of student workers.
- Valparaiso university furloughed 200 staff and encouraged faculty to take salary cuts.
- Western Michigan University laid off more than 200 staff.
- The National Governors Association and New America published a guide on how states can handle college and university closures.
- The majority of campus presidents in an AAC&U poll said they expected to cut staff:
- Vermont State Colleges’ chancellor tried to consolidate campuses, but was driven to resign instead.
I have come across other accounts of impending cuts that I can’t cite here – yet – because they were shared with me in confidence and have not been publicized.
A few reflections on this list: faculty members have largely been spared. Cuts have fallen on staff instead. There are few signs of structural or programmatic change. Many of these are temporary measures.
Have you seen others to add to this list? Is this something I should make a point of tracking? And what do you think of the steps taken so far?