IPFW officials appear to have had little choice but to lay off some workers, and they handled the inevitable cuts well.
University officials announced earlier this week that a small tuition increase, plus several cuts to operations and layoffs, will help the university’s financial problems. Administrators will begin notifying people in 15 1/2 positions that they will be laid off. Most layoffs will take effect at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. An additional 24 1/2 unfilled positions will be eliminated. The 40 layoffs and eliminations of unfilled jobs will save $2.2 million.
IPFW employs more than 1,100 people. Considering that 71 percent, or $112 million, of IPFW’s budget goes toward salaries and benefits, there was no choice but to make the difficult decision to cut staff.
The layoffs are unusual for the public university and come at a time when Purdue University is adjusting to new leadership, both on the IPFW campus and in West Lafayette.
Declining enrollment, increasing expenses and the uncertainty of state funding caused the deficit. IPFW must deal with budget shortfall of at least $4.2 million, which could rise to as much as $8.4 million, depending on fall enrollment and state funding.
University leaders were not coy about the challenge they are facing. Chancellor Vicky Carwein sent an email to faculty and staff several weeks ago advising of the budget shortfall and asking for cost-cutting ideas.
IPFW leaders wisely looked at all areas for potential cuts, but chose not to eliminate teaching positions.
“Our principal goal as we looked into this was don’t impact students or critical services and impact employees as little as possible,” said Walt Branson, vice chancellor for financial affairs.
He said most of those receiving layoff notices will have employment through June 30, giving affected employees appreciable advance notice.
“There seems to be a good understanding of the situation we are in and the steps we need to take to meet the budget challenge,” Branson said. “The biggest problem is it creates a level of uncertainty for employees.”
University leaders made other cuts where possible, including about $3 million from benefits and utility costs.
The amount of the proposed tuition increase has not been announced, but it is expected to generate $1.5 million and will be smaller than last year’s 2.5 percent increase. It requires a public hearing and approval from the Purdue University board of trustees.
The plan also calls for no salary increases for the coming year.
Those hardest hit are obviously those receiving layoff notices, but the cost-cutting measures are certain to affect many more people at IPFW as workloads are redistributed. Carwein and her team deserve credit for doing their best to ensure students feel the cuts least.