University of Delaware generic

The University of Delaware will layoff staff in multiple departments and furlough all staff due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It's unclear, at this time, how many staff members will be affected by the layoffs.

In a letter to the campus community, University President Dr. Dennis Assanis called these decisions "extremely difficult."

"We are committed to balancing the respect and appreciation we have for our workforce with the need to respond to immediate financial pressures, while positioning UD for success in the next few years. We also need to prioritize efficiency so that we continue to remain accessible and affordable for our students and families," said Assanis.

Staff will also see temporary reductions to their retirement reductions. Faculty are not affected.

"We are having discussions with unions representing our employees regarding implementation of such measures. The details of these measures are still being determined in order to minimize the impact on employees to the extent possible," said Assanis.

Assanis called the challenges facing UD "unprecedented" and noted it will take years for the university to recover.

The significant cost-cutting measures are on top of cuts in discretionary spending, a hiring and pay freeze for all faculty and staff, and pay cuts to executive-level senior staff implemented last spring. Assanis, himself, took a 10 percent pay cut, resulting in a reduction of his $878,000 salary by $87,000. Those cuts, in total, resulted in $86 million in savings--which wasn't enough to close the projected $168 million budget shortfall. 

As a result, the university was also forced to dip into its $1.46 billion endowment, pulling out $100 million to combat a deficit of at least $250 million.

Additionally, the university will incentivize retirement on a voluntary basis for long-time employees. On top the furloughs, the university is asking staff to volunteer to scale back work hours, and therefore, compensation.

In the campus communication, Assanis outlined the financial challenging facing the university and others like it across the country due to the pandemic. The University of Delaware is anticipating a $168 million budget shortfall this current fiscal year; he notes this could worsen depending on the pandemic.

"We simply have no other recourse than to take painful but necessary personnel-related measures. These steps will achieve temporary and permanent savings, while creating some choices for our employees and spreading the impact over multiple measures. In parallel, we will continue to explore organizational restructuring, operational efficiencies and additional personnel strategies to further reduce expenses, which will likely be necessary," he said.

He noted a tuition freeze amid increasing expenses, projected enrollment declines, and increases to financial aid due to changing student demographics tied to the pandemic all contributed to the growing gap between revenue and expenses. The university is also seeing projected losses in sponsored research and philanthropy and increased expenses to ensure the health and safety of the campus community during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Just a fraction of students have returned to the university this fall, with many taking part in virtual learning. That's led to vacancies in residence halls and the cancellation of athletic competitions. The university is also seeing a decline in parking revenue, and all of this is having ripple effects that have crippled the university's budget.

"This projection assumes we can return to more normal operations in the spring semester, with higher campus density and resumed events and athletics. However, if the current situation continues into the spring — similar residential density, primarily online instruction, no events, no athletics, combined with pandemic-related safety expenses — we expect an additional shortfall of $60 million," said Assanis. "In short, our projected deficit for the year is in the range of $228 million to $288 million.

Assanis will give a detailed presentation on the university's financial situation and take questions from the UD community at a virtual town hall meeting on October 1, though no further details, were available at this time.