After eight consecutive years of declining enrollment and subsidy cuts, Ohio University’s five regional campuses are facing “significant” budget challenges.
To help offset costs, the OU Board of Trustees approved a two-part early retirement plan for faculty and staff members at the January meeting. The plan is designed to address the budget deficit through decreasing the cost of personnel.
“We are, at the moment, very top heavy in terms of our compensation, so that’s the place where, if we are really to make end roads into this budget deficit, will have to be through some reduction in personnel costs,” Dean of Regional Education Bill Willan said.
The buyout for faculty would provide them with up to $70,000 for salary replacement and staff would receive $10,000. Both groups will also receive $10,000 for health insurance costs.
That will be a one-time payment for staff and in four parts over two years for faculty.
“Basically, it’s a separation payment,” Willan said.
Combined, the campuses are offering early retirement plans to about 100 employees.
“Usually when these buyouts occur, you have between 20 and 25 percent of those who are eligible take it,” Willan said. “There’s no way at this current time to know what the savings would be.”
The deadline for employees to accept the early retirement program is March 30. Employees who accept the plan would retire at the end of Spring Semester. Some employees would have to be replaced; however, replacements would depend on the need of each department affected.
“There would be a higher percentage of faculty that would have to be replaced than staff,” Willan said. “The savings there would be because we would have new faculty replace long-serving faculty, (and) their salaries would present some savings to us.”
Because early retirement means some faculty will be replaced, other faculty members have concerns about who will fill those positions.
“I think we do have a concern and our regional campuses' colleges have a concern that this will further the shift from Group I, tenured faculty, to non-tenured faculty,” Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin said.
Since the decline in enrollment began in 2009, the campuses have worked to eliminate unnecessary costs.
“I think that the regional campuses have been taking steps towards cost reduction and looking at their revenue opportunities for a number of years,” Vice President for Finance and Administration Deb Shaffer said at the January meeting.
The campuses have reduced costs by eliminating and reducing class sections.
“We’ve tried to do a better job of scheduling over our compressed video system to share courses that might be low enrolled,” Willan said. “So, to reduce expense, we’ve been making the moves in terms of economies.”
Because personnel costs are now the major factor in regional campuses’ budget deficits, the early retirement program aims to combat that.
“We think this is an approach to our budget issues that makes sense for those involved,” Willan said. “We’re hopeful that it has a very positive result.”