In yet another attempt to cut costs as it weathers a budget crisis, Loyola University is offering buyouts to certain employees, the Uptown institution’s third such severance offer in three years.
The latest buyout, which the university’s board of trustees approved in May, allows eligible faculty and staff members to retire from Loyola on either Aug. 19 or Jan. 3, in exchange for a severance package.
“The Loyola community and external experts have come together to create strategies for long-term financial strength,” said the Rev. Kevin Wildes, Loyola’s president, in a June email to employees. “The Voluntary Severance Program is one such measure.”
Employees must tell Loyola if they want to retire by Aug. 1.
The severance comes as the Roman Catholic university grapples with budget and enrollment troubles that Wildes had pledged to grow, not cut the university’s way out of, and as Wildes himself comes to grips with a faculty majority that has lost faith in his leadership.
The Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University since 2004, is faced with a daunting, …
It also comes as Loyola and other colleges deal with stripped funding next year for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, a move critics have said might push talented students out of state.
Loyola’s budgeting woes began in 2013, after 200 fewer students than expected enrolled at the university. A hiring freeze and the first buyout at Loyola in 15 years - a move that led to eligible employees camping out overnight for a shot at what were initially first-come, first-serve packages - followed, as did a round of layoffs.
Another buyout, coupled with a two-year reduction in the university’s contribution to its employees’ retirement funds, occurred the following year. The university will reinstate that retirement contribution in January, however.
Facing the prospect of continuing low enrollment and a budget shortfall, Loyola University a…
Wildes’ plan to solve the fiscal problem - which he in 2014 chalked up to a national decrease in the number of high school graduates - is largely dependent on Loyola’s ability to recruit more students over the next five years. To do so, Loyola is investing in some programs and slashing others, and will slice spending by $11.5 million by 2021.
But if those students don’t enroll, Loyola would actually need to cut $25 million from its budget over that same time period, Wildes has said.
The faculty-backed plan, announced in November, did not specifically mention another buyout, professors said. But officials did say that if they did not realize enough savings, more cuts would be on the horizon.
It’s unclear if Loyola is on track to meeting enrollment goals for this year. The university would not say this week how many students said they would enroll this fall and if that figure was within the school’s projections.
And in what could serve as another enrollment blow, the state Legislature in June elected to fund only 70 percent of students’ TOPS awards, a loss that will largely be felt during the spring semester. Critics have said any cuts to the popular TOPS program could drive away top students from both public and private universities, as local students often combine that award with other financial aid to help pay their way.
Melissa Alba, a Loyola University sophomore, feels like she and her classmates are being ign…
Loyola also would not say how many of its 900 full-time employees are eligible for the buyouts, how much the move is expected to save the university or what the eligibility requirements are. Officials did stress that Loyola had not initiated layoffs and that buyouts were voluntary.
Wildes’ office only gave detailed severance information to eligible faculty, said associate chemistry professor Joelle Underwood, who is not eligible. Underwood, the vice-chair of the University Senate, said it was clear to many faculty members that the school would need to make more cuts, even if that was not Wildes’ stated intention.
But she said Wildes shouldn’t drop his budget axe on only the rank-and-file. “We have too many administrators for the size of the university,” she said.
Though most professors backed the initial financial plan, they don’t back Wildes. They say his poor leadership helped bring Loyola to financial distress, and that he should more often include faculty in his decisions. The Senate in February issued a formal rebuke of the president, his second faculty censure in a decade.
Professors have specifically asked Wildes to invite the head of the faculty senate to his cabinet meetings, consider adding professors to Loyola’s board and to apprise professors of administrators’ evaluations, among other asks. Underwood said he has not yet responded to their requests.
“A lot of us feel like we are not part of the (budget) discussion, and don’t see where it’s going to go,” she said.