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UD lays off 120+ in round of cuts

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Citing a significant drop in enrollment, the University of Delaware has laid off 122 staff members. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEWARK — The University of Delaware has laid off 122 employees this week in its latest measure to get a potential $288 million budget shortfall under control.

Departments that were most affected by layoffs were those where operations have slowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including facilities maintenance, construction project management and conference services, according to university spokesperson Andrea Boyle Tippett. 

The layoffs represent 3.5% of the university’s 3,570 full-time staff members. UD’s 1,330 faculty members are exempt from these cuts, and negotiations are still underway with unions, including the UD chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

The cuts came one month after UD President Dennis Assanis announced the state’s largest university had no other choice but to take “painful but necessary” personnel-related measures. Those measures also included a 5% salary reduction for non-union employees starting Nov. 1, and a voluntary retirement program for those who worked at the university for more than 20 years.

Earlier this month, 138 out of 369 employees opted for the early retirement program. It is unclear whether a voluntary retirement — with severance — would be included in the future.

These measures are the second round of drastic cuts UD has made, which included cuts in discretionary spending, a hiring and salary freeze, salary cuts for senior administration as well as laying off 1,100 part-time employees last spring.

Assanis pointed to the reality of social distancing and its effects on enrollment in the long term. The decrease in freshmen cost UD $13 million, and will continue to impact the budget over the next three years as the class matriculates, according to figures presented during a UD town hall on Oct. 8.

Drops in returning students cost UD another $10 million, and the university lost another $22 million when it decided not to raise tuition like it typically does every year.

In addition, the UD Board of Trustees also voted to draw at least $100 million from its endowment, on top of the $82 million to cover the projected deficit. In total, the university is spending more than 10% of the value of the endowment to endure the pandemic.

In the past, UD has a consistent practice of drawing $50 million per year from the endowment to support operations.

Despite concerns of continued rise in coronavirus cases, Assanis announced that spring classes will be held in person “whenever possible.” Classes with 50 or more students will be online, though smaller in-person breakout sessions will be offered where possible. 

Residence halls will open at 60% capacity, allowing 4,000 students to live on-campus as UD looks to recoup value room and board fees. In the fall semester, the university capped residency at 20%. Priority will be given to freshmen. The spring semester will start on Feb. 15.

“This has been a semester full of unprecedented challenges, and the remainder of the academic year will continue to compel us to be flexible and resilient,” Assanis wrote in a letter to the community. “With challenges, though, also come opportunities: for new ways of teaching and learning, new research questions to be answered, new ways of engaging and supporting each other.”

By Katie Tabeling

[email protected]

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