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After 900 layoffs and 6,400 furloughs, Rutgers says more cuts are coming logo 10/15/2020 By Kelly Heyboer,
a man standing in front of a bus: Downtown Rutgers is less packed than normal as the university deals with the impact of fewer students on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. © Keith Sargeant | NJ Advance Media for Downtown Rutgers is less packed than normal as the university deals with the impact of fewer students on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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After scrapping its pre-pandemic spending plan to deal with the financial chaos brought on by the coronavirus, Rutgers University got some good news recently.

The state dropped plans to slash nearly $86.6 million in state operating aid to Rutgers, helping the state university plug a big hole in its budget.

But, it won’t be nearly enough.

Even those millions in state funding can’t make up for an “unprecedented collapse” in housing, dining and other revenue that disappeared when most Rutgers students stayed home to continue remote learning during the pandemic, campus officials said.

Rutgers expects more cuts, a wage freeze and additional furloughs for its 23,600 employees, according to a revised $4.45 billion budget approved by the Rutgers Board of Governors last week. The state’s largest higher education institution is facing “the largest financial hole the university has ever experienced,” said Michael Gower, the Rutgers' chief financial officer.

The new cuts come after Rutgers has already laid off nearly 900 employees and told thousands more they must accept furloughs to save their jobs.

“About 6,400 Rutgers employees have entered and will enter shared-work programs that include furloughs as a way to preserve jobs while reducing costs. In addition, more than 4,000 non-aligned (non-union) employees across the university are subject to wage freezes and we are currently in arbitration regarding our fiscal emergency and its impact on raises for the current year,” said Dory Devlin, a Rutgers spokeswoman.

With a fraction of its 70,000 students on campus, Rutgers has already cut jobs in dining, libraries and other facilities, school officials said. Few employees have been asked to come back.

“As of this fall, there have been 901 layoffs. So far, 40 employees have been recalled to work after layoffs, mostly in dining services,” Devlin said.

Rutgers has also slashed the number of its adjunct professors, called part-time lecturers, by about 25%. Instead, full-time professors and teaching assistants are teaching more courses, Devlin said.

Rutgers' employee unions continue to fight many of the cuts, saying the state university needs to tap into some of its reserve money to save jobs and honor its union contracts.

An arbitrator has been called in to help the Rutgers administration and the university’s unions negotiate a dispute over whether the school is really in a “fiscal emergency” that would allow it to break labor contracts, freeze wages and cancel scheduled pay raises.

“There are many emergencies in the world today, but Rutgers' finances is not one of them,” Todd Wolfson, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union that represents 5,000 full-time faculty and graduate workers, said earlier this month. “There’s simply no justification for the layoffs and pay freezes that are hurting the people who make this university work.”

Across the state, colleges and universities have been scrambling to deal with revenue shortfalls that began last spring when campuses shut down and most classes went all-remote due to COVID-19 restrictions. Most colleges reopened this fall with a mix of online and in-person classes.

On Rutgers' campuses in New Brunswick-Piscataway, Newark and Camden, the majority of undergraduates continue to take their classes via computer from home and most dorms remain closed. But there are some in-person classes and the campuses remain partly open.

In July, Rutgers announced it would freeze tuition and cut campus fees by 15%, saving most students about $300 this fall. A typical in-state, full-time Rutgers undergraduate pays about $15,000 in tuition and fees a year. Once room and board are added to the bill, the total goes up to about $28,000 a year.

Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway has said he’d like to reopen the university at 50% capacity in January, but he isn’t sure that will be possible.

The newly-revised university budget shows how crippling the pandemic has been at New Jersey’s largest university. Among the changes:

— Rutgers' estimates it will bring in about $97 million less in revenue than it expected. Some of that is a reduction in tuition, student housing, dining and athletic revenue.

— The university, which has a medical school and a large healthcare operation, is making far less than it budgeted for because of a steep drop in elective surgeries, procedures and other medical services. Health care revenues are down about $43 million.

— Other sources of revenue, including donations, gifts and investment income, are down by about $11.2 million.

— Some costs are unexpectedly rising. Rutgers has had to budget more for student financial aid, student health and mental health services, technology for remote-learning students, tech support for faculty and personal protective equipment and disinfecting supplies.

“The pandemic has had a profound impact on finances at all colleges and universities, and Rutgers is no different,” said Gower, the university’s chief financial officer said in a statement last week. “We have made good progress in closing the gap while, at the same time, we froze tuition and reduced fees for most of the 70,000 students who study and learn at Rutgers.”

Rutgers other cost-savings measure include cutting pay for top administrators, including a 10% pay cut for the president, suspending business travel and suspending building projects.

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Kelly Heyboer may be reached at


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