University of Iowa's biggest college preparing for layoffs, pay cuts, furloughs

Arts and Sciences confronts coronavirus hit, fewer students, state cuts

Montserrat Fuentes. University of Iowa executive vice president and provost, addresses graduates at the December 2019 co
Montserrat Fuentes. University of Iowa executive vice president and provost, addresses graduates at the December 2019 commencement ceremony for the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The college has announced a three-tier plan to cut up to $25 million from its budget. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — the largest on campus — has been asked to identify up to $25 million in cuts following massive coronavirus-related financial losses and an expected decline in the number of UI students this fall.

The cuts will likely mean layoffs, lost pay raises, and potential furloughs or closed programs and departments.

In a message to faculty and staff across the massive college, Dean Steve Goddard on Wednesday warned of the expected enrollment drop — a 13 percent decrease in non-resident students and a 5 percent drop in residential students.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences accounts for about two-thirds of the university’s undergraduate student instruction and about half of its graduate-level instruction.

The college reported 15,749 undergraduates in fall 2019, which was 607 fewer than it reported in fall 2018. It had 1,090 graduate students last fall.

The next highest undergraduate enrollment last year was in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business, which had 3,138 undergraduates.

Breaking down the college’s resulting budget cuts — which could get worse if COVID-19 cases persist — Goddard announced three tiers of potential impacts.


A tier-one cut amounts to $15 million a year for three to five years “as that smaller-than-normal class matriculates to graduation.”

A tier-two cut, which anticipates a 10 percent loss in state appropriations, totals $20 million and includes the first-tier cuts.

A tier-three cut anticipates a 20 percent cut in state support. It totals $25 million and includes both the previous two tiers of reductions, according to Goddard.

“The state appropriation cuts will be long lasting, and we may never recover the funding once the deappropriation is made,” he said in his message.

Iowa lawmakers over the weekend decided to cut $8 million from the Board of Regents for the upcoming budget year. But Goddard noted the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference was “exceedingly cautious” in its estimate of state revenue as the economic consequences of the coronavirus remain unknown.

“Thus, we need to act prudently today in case there is a need to perform a midyear reduction due to an additional cut by the state in the first months of 2021,” Goddard said. “I am hopeful that tier 3 cuts will not take effect until FY22 (July 1, 2021), if they occur at all.”

After reading the dean’s message, UI English professor Loren Glass acknowledged Goddard’s efforts to be transparent but took exception with the non-tenure-track cuts.

“No specific justification was provided, and the (departmental executive officers) were not consulted,” he told The Gazette. “The other priorities seem reasonable, but we are disappointed by the absence of cuts to administrative salaries.”

He called for an evenhanded approach to enacting reductions.


“And faculty should be consulted about any cuts that affect academic programs,” Glass said.

What to cut

In deciding what to cut, how to do it and when, Goddard said his leadership team followed guiding principles that prioritize the college’s mission of excellence in teaching, research and artistic production and service to the community, state and larger society.

But, he conceded, 86 percent of the college’s budget goes to salaries and benefits, “making it difficult to identify sufficient cuts in places other than those that impact faculty and staff.”

Goddard broke down measures the college will take to address each tier of cuts, with the first tier of cuts taking effect July 1.

First tier

The tier-one cuts include:

• Eliminate January 2021 merit increases.

• Eliminate 15 of 205 lecturers, which Goddard phrased as “limiting the renewal of some instructional track faculty and assistants in instruction.”

• Cut pay for faculty members teaching additional courses and for those who are converting courses from in-person to online.

• Enable unpaid furlough days, along with “voluntary reduction in effort.”

• Defer non-critical instructional faculty and staff hiring.

• Cut visitor and adjunct faculty budget allocations, along with the summer 2020 budget allocation.

• Reduce discretionary funds and tap all other resources beyond the general education budget;

• Implement indirect cost-savings, such as curtailed renovation and instruction equipment allocations.

Second tier

The second tier of cuts — adding another $5 million — could become necessary later in the upcoming 2021 budget year, “depending on state appropriation decisions.” Some of these steps “require immediate action,” Goddard said.

They include:

• Cutting more instructional track faculty and assistants.

• “Right-sizing” doctoral programs “to meet shifting demand.”

• Eliminating duplication in majors and elective courses.

• Cutting general education fund support for its English as a Second Language Program.

• Offsetting some student financial aid with donor-funded scholarships.

• Expanding and leveraging shared research spaces, like machine and electronics shops.

• Cutting its use of outside services.


• Redeploying professional and scientific staff to meet changing needs.

Third tier

The final tier of cuts — which could add another $5 million — amount to “last-resort measures” and are listed in order of priority.

• Temporary mandatory cuts in administrative supplements — for senior leadership and directors.

• Temporary mandatory cuts in summer executive officer salaries.

• Closing or combining programs or departments.

• Temporary mandatory cuts in staff and faculty salaries.

• Delayed faculty career development awards — like research leave — for two years.

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