Smaller liberal arts colleges and even public universities are facing budget shortfalls, as federal government aid and state government funding have dropped over the past few years. Michigan Live reported that 142 employees agreed to early retirement from Eastern Michigan University (EMU), a public university located in Ypsilanti 35 miles west of Detroit. The university is facing an enrollment decline and university representatives claimed that the voluntary buyouts will help EMU invest in new academic programs and facilities.
The university initially announced the buyout plans several months ago in May, and as of this week, 42 professors and 10 full-time lecturers accepted the buyouts. EMU had given employees until July 15 to determine whether they would take the buyout. EMU President James Smith said that around 600 EMU employees were eligible for the early retirement buyouts.
The breakdown of buyouts are as follows:
- 28 professional/technical employees;
- 24 clerical/secretarial employees;
- 21 administrative professionals;
- 11 food/maintenance workers;
- 3 confidential assistants;
- 2 campus police officers;
- 1 athletic coach
However, EMU did not disclose how much the total buyouts will cost. Additionally, EMU did not determine how much the university will save through the buyouts because the university did not designate the buyouts program as a cost-saving measure. Smith said, “The (early retirement buyouts were) not designed primarily as a budget-saving measure, hence we did not establish a goal regarding the number of people who we hoped would or would not accept the offer. Instead, the (packages were) designed to provide the University the opportunity and flexibility to re-organize how we perform our work of serving students.”
Those who chose to be bought out will receive payment over the course of five years, with faculty and lecturers exiting on August 31 or December 31, with other staff members leaving on September 30.
EMU had slashed its staff in 2018, as well. They eliminated 42 open staff positions and laid off 17 staffers to shrink the budget deficit between $4.5 and $5.5 million. Additionally, EMU eliminated four sports to save $2.4 million, but reinstated the women’s tennis program after public outcry. Furthermore, EMU’s Board of Regents approved a 4.4% tuition increase to shore up its budget this past June.
Yet, EMU has not attacked the root of the problem of student enrollment decline: High tuition costs which could lead to significant student loan debt.