UW-Milwaukee officials on Monday explained details of a new buyout offer for employees. The plan encourages faculty and staff who are close to retirement to leave early.
The campus stands to lose as much as $40 million in state aid over the next two years, if lawmakers approve Gov. Walker’s budget. One way UWM is looking to deal with the shortfall is through a buyout program.
Chancellor Mark Mone says the university will offer the deal to about 300 of its 4,500 employees.
“We anticipate, depending on eligibility and how many people would accept that, that we may save some small number of dollars, in the scale of the cut, so $1.5 million or $2 million,” Mone says.
Faculty and staff who are 65 or older with at least five years of service, or those who are at least 57 with 30 years of service will qualify. Those accepted will get a one-time payment of half their base salary. Deans and division heads will decide if their departments will take part, so it’s unclear exactly how many people will leave.
At Monday’s meeting, psychology Prof. John Moore stepped to the mic and asked how the buyouts would impact the faculty left behind.
“It seems to me that the implication is that class sizes are going to increase for the survivors and so those of us who might be in the retirement window are now faced with a choice of, do we accept this or do we visit a certain increase in class sizes on our colleagues?” Moore says.
UWM Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen responded that such a question is part of the criteria deans will consider when deciding whether to take part. Van Harpen leads a campus task force that’s working on how to manage the likely shortfall. For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the group also recommends using some reserves and asking campus units to cut spending.
Van Harpen says the approach will forestall perhaps more painful fixes the following year.
“It would allow us to take time with campuswide personnel decisions, especially layoffs, and if possible, avoid or defer on furloughs as this overall would contribute even further to negative morale on campus,” Van Harpen says.
She also reminded those in attendance that even if legislators reduce Gov. Walker’s proposed cut, UWM still faces a structural deficit.
“We would likely need to take some dramatic actions to achieve a sustainable future even if the cut is less, so the budget planning task force knows that this work must happen regardless and we will keep working on this until we have in hand a sustainable plan for the future,” she says.
One student spoke at the meeting – a sophomore majoring in pharmacy. He’s from out of state, so his tuition is set to go up 2.5 percent next year, under UWM’s money saving plan.
“I don’t want to experience the burden of paying that extra amount of money, so my question is, what are some methods to help us ease through that process?” he says.
The UWM officials told the student to check in with the financial aid office to get help finding scholarships.
Provost Johannes Britz also placed blame at the feet of elected officials, who’ve cut aid to higher education in recent years.
“We are sensitive to tuition for students, just philosophically, to say we want to make it affordable as a public institution but then there’s the expectation that the public good will support public education, which doesn’t always happen,” Britz says.
As for the buyouts, UWM will become the fifth UW campus to offer them this spring. Eligible employees must apply for the program by May 22, and leave the university between August of this year and January 31, 2016.