On June 30, 2020, Salem State University proposed furloughs to address unanticipated budget challenges. The vast majority of non-instructional employees completed two weeks of furlough before the end of 2020. Faculty members are scheduled to complete their first week of furlough from March 14 to March 20. This furlough week was intentionally scheduled during spring break in an effort to minimize any impact on students. Below are frequently asked questions about this furlough program.
What is Salem State’s furlough program?
Last summer, Salem State joined a number of colleges and universities across the country asking employees to take unpaid time off from work in order to address unanticipated budget challenges caused by COVID-19. Most administrators took both weeks of furlough before the end of the 2020 calendar year. Faculty will take their first week of furlough the week of March 14, 2021. While this fiscal year is now better than expected with a significant surplus, we still face multi-year, multi-million-dollar deficits that must be addressed.
Who is being asked to furlough?
The furloughs are intended to be a shared sacrifice across campus and include almost all faculty, staff, and administrators. This includes senior team members. President Keenan has completed one week of furlough to date and will take his second week in the spring.
Why was the week of March 14, 2021 chosen for faculty furloughs?
This week was chosen to minimize any impact on students, as it aligns with spring break. The university did seek to offer faculty greater flexibility to choose furlough weeks, however, this proposal was voted down by the faculty and librarian union leadership. Please see the below list of offices that students may contact should they have questions and needs during spring break week.
Who can students reach if there are needs they are seeking to address during Spring Break week?
Spring break week was chosen in order to minimize any impact on students. Members of the campus community are here for students during this time. Below is a list of offices that students may reach next week:
- For any academic matters, including but not limited to advising, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- For a student life related matter, please contact email@example.com
- For concerns about your well-being or another student’s well-being, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- For other student related questions, please contact the Navigation Center at email@example.com
- If you have an immediate safety concern, a person is a threat to themselves or someone else, or you are witnessing a crime, call ext. 6111 from a university phone, or call 978.542.6111 or 911 from any phone.
What are the current and long-term benefits of furloughs?
The furlough program saves Salem State $3.3 million in the FY2021 budget year, contributing to a positive managed net revenue. This savings contributed to the positive revenue picture that allows us to avoid involuntary job losses over at least the current and next fiscal years. While not easy, furloughs were determined to be the least disruptive option as Salem State has navigated a year of budget unknowns and a challenging higher education and enrollment landscape.
Why are furloughs needed if the university has received federal relief funds?
As they should be, significant portions of relief funds are designated for student aid. College and universities are still awaiting necessary clarifying information from the U.S. Department of Education on how the recent round of funding signed in December can be spent. A third round of federal coronavirus relief funding was just approved but we have not been notified yet of the amount for Salem State and our students, and the spending restrictions. Federal relief funds have played an important role in helping to offset COVID-19 expenses and are essential to allowing Salem State to avoid involuntary job losses over at least the current and next fiscal years. Federal funding, while exceptionally helpful, is one-time money and is not going to occur regularly going forward. We must plan our budget accordingly so that we can continue to offer the support our students deserve in order to reach their goals.
Why is Salem State facing budget challenges despite the success of its fundraising efforts?
Salem State is exceptionally grateful to our philanthropic community for its ongoing support of our institution and students. When discussing philanthropy as it relates to Salem State’s operating budget, it is important to note that donations to the university are commonly designated according to donor intent and aligned to university fundraising priorities—such as student success initiatives like financial aid—and are rarely donor-directed to cover operational expenses. Not only are these gifts designated for specific purposes based on donor intent, but they often have payment schedules in which funds are received over a five-year period. More significant gifts often establish endowed funds overseen by the SSU Foundation, which are invested and live on in perpetuity, providing annual spending of 4% directed to the Foundation to provide consistent and ongoing funding to the university for the use identified by the donor. For example, an endowed scholarship for a student demonstrating financial need would provide the university with 4% of those funds each year, forever, to support student scholarships; those funds cannot be legally directed elsewhere.
Why does Salem State have budget challenges?
The university has 3,000 fewer students than it did in 2010, largely due to retention challenges, demographic changes, declining community college enrollments resulting in fewer transfer students, and the success of our increased graduation rate resulting in fewer students enrolled. Faculty and staff compensation costs have not decreased at the same pace and make up 70 percent of the university’s budget. This is the structural imbalance that Salem State is working to address through the Vision for a Sustainable Future, which you can learn about at salemstate.edu/vision.
How do furloughs fit into the Vision for a Sustainable Future announced on February 24?
The Vision for a Sustainable Future, which you can learn more about at salemstate.edu/vision, includes $3.3 million in savings from furloughs to allow the university to avoid job losses over at least the current and next fiscal years, and invest in areas of growth instead. This Vision is Salem State’s opportunity to stabilize retention with the hope of closing its structural deficit and ideally, being able to avoid job losses in the long term if the efforts outlined in the Vision are successful.
Please share your feedback on the Vision for a Sustainable Future through the form that accompanies it, which will be posted until March 22.
An open forum for current students is being held on Tuesday, April 6 at 5 pm. Please register for this forum here.
Is the university changing the majors and programs it offers?
Any current or incoming student who has declared a major can complete that major. As Salem State reviews data on which academic programs our students select, resources are being directed to areas with high demand and growth potential. In the future, Salem State will work with faculty, department chairs, and deans overseeing majors that students are less likely to pursue to consider possible paths forward, including re-invigoration or restructuring. It is important to note, however, that any such changes are not imminent and will go through the university’s shared governance process. Data about where our students choose to major now and in the future, along with feedback from our campus community, will guide decisions such as where to add faculty positions to ensure that we are providing students with the opportunities they seek. This does not change Salem State’s commitment to the liberal arts; we will always offer liberal arts majors, and these courses will always be central to both our general education curriculum and, more broadly, to a commitment to enriching the intellectual and creative lives of our students.