AKRON—The University of Akron is offering buyouts or early retirements to some of its 720 full-time faculty members, the school announced in an email sent to the university community March 18.
In an effort to buoy the university's financial position, the board of trustees approved offering a Voluntary Separation or Retirement Program, but only for positions that are not in what the school is calling strategic investment areas.
The university said last year it was projecting a deficit of about $16 million for fiscal year 2018-2019.
"We designed this VSRP to ensure that areas of strategic investment at the University will continue to have the needed faculty members to achieve the investment goals," said Nathan Mortimer, vice president of finance and administration/chief financial officer, in the email. "For those who are eligible for the VSRP, this offering may enable them to take their career in a different direction or to retire, depending on their personal situation."
Eligible faculty members will be contacted by mail by April 1 and must make a decision by May 31, UA said. The last day of work for those who participate will be May 31, 2020. That will allow UA the time to set a transition plan, the email said.
Cristine Boyd, UA director of media relations, said in an email that, at this point, UA does not have a targeted number of buyouts or a defined savings the school is hoping to achieve. She also said it was too early to speculate whether the administration would consider other alternatives, such as layoffs.
In a document outlining the requirements, the university said that only full-time, permanent (nonvisiting) faculty members are eligible.
Faculty members in the following strategic investment areas are not eligible to participate:
Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences: chemistry; communication; computer science; criminal justice studies; dance, theater and arts administration; and music
- College of Applied Science and Technology: business and information technology (CSI); disaster science and emergency systems; and engineering and science technology
- College of Business Administration: accountancy, finance, management and marketing
- College of Engineering: all departments.
- College of Health Professions: nursing; and speech-language pathology and audiology
- College of Polymer Science and Engineering: all departments
- School of Law: all departments
Those who accept the offer will receive "cash payments equal to 100 percent of 2019-2020 base rate of pay. Stipends, overload, temporary, summer, and adjunct assignment pay, one-time payments, or any other similar payments are not considered in base rate of pay for this program," the document stated.
Payouts will be in two installments: 50 percent during July 2020 and 50 precent during January 2021, the university said.
Under the plan, VSRP participants and their dependents can receive unlimited credit hours/classes at no tuition cost through May 2025, the document said. Retiring employees and their dependents will receive the education benefits outlined in the university board rule or the collective bargaining agreement between UA and the Akron Chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
The move comes as the university is facing a host of challenges, including changes in leadership. John Green is leading UA on an interim basis while the school embarks on yet another search for a president. The university also is facing decreasing enrollment and budget woes.
And just last week, UA announced that proposals to potentially reorganize some of its colleges, after an academic review last year, are getting put on hold.