La Salle University on Wednesday laid off 53 employees — nearly 7% of the full-time workforce — and cut the salary or hours of 48 others as a result of ongoing strategic planning and the financial impact from the coronavirus.
In addition, 51 vacant staff positions were eliminated, president Colleen Hanycz said in a message to the campus.
“While difficult, these decisions comprise a necessary restructuring in order to best position La Salle University for continued viability,” the Philadelphia university said in a statement.
The layoffs affect staff, while the salary reductions impact faculty and staff, said spokesperson Christopher Vito. The layoffs are immediate, and the pay reductions take effect June 29 for staff and Aug. 10 for faculty, Vito said.
The university, which enrolls nearly 5,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students, declined to list the jobs affected but indicated they touch virtually every corner of the campus. As part of the action, the university will no longer offer its Bilingual Undergraduate Studies for Collegiate Advancement program in the Lehigh Valley, though it will remain on the main campus. The program is designed to help students become proficient in academic English while furthering their education.
La Salle joins a number of other universities that have cut or furloughed staff and reduced salaries as the coronavirus has cost colleges millions in refunded room and board costs and is expected to cost more in the fall when students return. The Catholic university had struggled in previous years. In 2015, freshman enrollment plummeted 18% and 23 staff members were laid off as the school faced a $12 million deficit in its $132 million budget.
But the university was restructured under Hanycz, including a tuition reset and a marketing campaign.
Hanycz announced the job losses to faculty and staff during a virtual meeting Wednesday. Employees who are paid more than $50,000 will take a 5% salary cut, while executive leaders will lose 7%, the president said in her message. She said she will take a 10% cut.
She said La Salle faces millions in losses and additional expenses, and if students can’t return to campus in the fall because of the virus, schools like La Salle, which are “lightly endowed” and “highly dependent on tuition, room, and board,” face “a dire financial outlook,” she told the campus.
Earlier this month, Vito said La Salle had exceeded its enrollment expectations for the fall, including an increase in interest and deposits from students within the region. The university did not provide exact numbers. Many schools are bracing for a loss of prospective students over the summer, as the financial toll of the virus continues and uncertainty about fall learning remains.
“We don’t anticipate a clearer view of this year’s incoming class of first-year students until the semester begins,” he said.
The university announced last month that it intended to resume in-person classes in the fall if government regulations permit. La Salle plans to start the semester Aug. 17 and finish it before Thanksgiving.