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PNW to cut more than $2.7 million in spending, cites declining enrollment, COVID-19
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PNW to cut more than $2.7 million in spending, cites declining enrollment, COVID-19

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Bioscience Innovation Building and Purdue Northwest

Purdue University Northwest plans to cut $2.7 million in spending because of declining enrollment and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Purdue University Northwest will look to cut more than $2.7 million to sustain anticipated enrollment losses.

PNW Chancellor Thomas Keon outlined a plan to reduce spending across departments ahead of 2021 in an April 29 letter addressed to Purdue Northwest faculty and staff.

The cuts will come in the form of reductions of supplies and equipment, elimination of vacant positions and reductions in force which will become effective on or before July 1, according to the letter.

Departments will be asked to make cuts in proportion to the percentage of funding each receives from the university's total general fund budget.

Additional cuts may come in the fall in anticipation of coronavirus pandemic related losses.

"We continue to respond strategically to the changing landscape in higher education and in our greater communities in order to sustain the quality education our students expect and deserve," Keon said in the letter. "To that end, we are taking some immediate actions and are also planning for next year to ensure our financial stability."

While the university recorded a 4% increase in freshman student enrollment this fall, it tallied a 4.5% decrease in total student enrollment, bringing PNW's total student count to 10,006.

PNW reports 4% increase in freshman student enrollment, 4.5% decline overall

That decline is expected to continue. PNW's Office of Institutional Research predicted a decrease in fall 2020 enrollment even before the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the letter.

Tuition and fees drive 46% of revenue for the university, Falzone said.

PNW has now projected a general fund shortfall of $2.8 million for the 2021 fiscal year, according to Keon's letter. The largest cuts, totaling an anticipated $1,405,199, will come from PNW's academic affairs division which makes up 56% of the university's general fund spending.

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Other large reductions will come to the university's finance and administration, enrollment management and student affairs, and information services departments which make of 17%, 9% and 8% of PNW's $102 million general fund budget, respectively.

The chancellor's division, intercollegiate athletics and institutional advancement will also each see cuts of more than $90,000.

"Any reductions in force will be limited," said Kris Falzone, a spokeswoman for the university. "The leaders of each division are responsible for determining how to achieve the preemptive expense adjustments needed in response to enrollment and financial challenges." 

PNW may look to make additional cuts of $10 million to $16 million in advance of coronavirus-driven impact expected to be felt this fall.

The university has already pledged to continue its spring online learning model through the summer. 

Keon said in his April 29 letter that, given property authority to do so, he hopes in-person instruction can resume this fall. But the PNW leadership team expects the pandemic will "affect the ability of our students to join us for the first time or to return to Purdue Northwest this fall."

NWI colleges, universities extend virtual learning through summer semester

The scope of fall reductions likely will not be known until after the university receives its final enrollment figures in September, according to Keon's letter, though the university plans to give notice soon of coming contract suspensions.

The notice will be given following Purdue University's one-year notice policy and may affect PNW's continuing lecturers and clinical faculty with the exception of those working in the College of Nursing.

University leadership is considering other reductions to travel and supplies and expenses, according to the letter. Temporary faculty and staff furloughs and salary reductions could come ahead of 2021.

Valparaiso University announced in mid-April it would be furloughing 200 employees in coronavirus-related reductions.

Valparaiso University furloughs 200 employees; president to take 30% pay cut in COVID-19 reductions

"It is our commitment to continue to work to find measures that could materially change the circumstances that necessitate these notices," Keon said. "The senior leadership team and I are confident that PNW will emerge from these unusual circumstances stronger and better positioned to lead Northwest Indiana."

Keon's full letter on PNW budget reductions is available online at pnw.edu/continuing-impact-of-declining-enrollment-on-pnws-budget.

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