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April 23, 2020

UHart enacting voluntary furloughs, pay cuts to combat COVID-19 losses

Photo | HBJ File University of Hartford President Gregory Woodward says investing in state-of-the-art buildings and infrastructure is key to the institution’s future.

The University of Hartford this month enacted voluntary pay cuts and furloughs, while temporarily eliminating retirement contributions to recover some of at least $10 million in refunds and other revenue losses the school experienced amid COVID-19 shutdown measures.

In an April 3 email to faculty reviewed by HBJ, UHart President Greg Woodward told employees the university will recover most of that lost revenue from student housing and summer program refunds with the $4.4 million it received from the federal stimulus bill; voluntary furloughs and salary reductions through June, 30 ($1 million saved); eliminating retirement contributions for fiscal 2020 and the first half of fiscal 2021 ($4.46 million in savings); and canceling scholarships for now-canceled summer programs ($1.5 million in savings).

In the email Woodward, who said he expected a multimillion-dollar budget deficit before the pandemic added an additional $10 million shortfall, stressed the importance of UHart balancing its budget.

He wrote that he agreed to take a 15% pay cut for the remainder of this fiscal year and vice presidents and deans have voluntarily agreed to a 10% pay cut. There will also be an early retirement program.

The University of Hartford, like most other colleges in Connecticut, was forced to shut down its campus last month and move classes to an online-only setting to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"The University must create a balanced budget for next year," Woodward wrote, warning that “millions of dollars in permanent reductions” are being planned. "The big question mark is future uncertainty in our enrollment, retention, discount rate, summer revenues, insurance premiums, and endowments."

In a statement, UHart told HBJ the administration is trying to enact cost-saving measures in a way that will have the least possible negative impact on employees.

"The duration of furloughs may need to be extended and additional furloughs may be necessary; however, by first offering this on a voluntary basis we hope to further limit the potential impact on other employees as the pandemic landscape unfolds," the statement said.

UHart is far from the only higher-education institution facing financial headwinds amid the coronavirus crisis. UConn last month announced it will likely take a $30-million hit from residential student-fee refunds as a result of pupils not finishing the spring semester on campus.

Meantime, colleges and universities in Connecticut will receive a total of nearly $112 million from the federal government’s $2.2 trillion stimulus package Congress approved last month.

Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges President Jennifer Widness said that while the federal funds help, they won't solve financial woes private colleges and universities in the state are experiencing.

"While this funding is much needed and will be helpful, it likely won’t cover even 25% of the immediate expenses incurred; let alone the anticipated losses in the summer and into the fall," Widness said in an email. "As such, like many employers across the state, private non-profit colleges are taking steps to cut costs and address the immediate deficits in their budget and considering cost saving measures."

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