Bradley University considers $40 million cuts amid COVID-19

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Bradley University may be forced to make budget cuts up to $40 million to sustain the school’s finances.

The university announced to faculty and staff Monday that enrollment estimates are expected to decline significantly for the upcoming school year. President Gary Roberts said he expects students will not attend Bradley because of health concerns or financial stresses due to the pandemic. He has created a five-person task force to handle the financial uncertainty. They will come up with options to run Bradley University with 25% fewer dollars.

Adjustments to improve the financial burden will include suspension of construction, staffing and academic program cuts, and a hiring freeze on nonessential positions and nonessential spending. University President Gary Roberts said, “everything is up for review and is on the table.”

Operational changes already made, said Roberts, include:

  • All sabbaticals approved for the 2020-21 academic year have been postponed for at least a year, and all future sabbatical eligibility will be delayed by at least a year.
  • Test optional admissions will be re-examined and applied in all appropriate circumstances. Some students who have applied or will apply for admission for this fall will not have test scores since the administrations of the SAT and ACT tests have been canceled. Likewise, the pressures to have the largest enrollment reasonably possible this fall will increase the efficacy of expanding test-optional beyond a few pilot programs.
  • Summer teaching contracts previously designated as “A” contracts have been restructured. All summer teaching contracts will now incorporate the terms in “B” contracts to pay the faculty member 50% of the tuition generated by the course up to a maximum of 2.5% of the faculty member’s base salary per course credit hour.
  • It is highly likely that we will suspend work on Phase II of the Business & Engineering Convergence Center once the demolition of Jobst Hall is complete and the site is cleaned up. We are in the final phase of assessing the financial and operational implications of suspending work on this project, but I anticipate the savings will be substantial (several millions).
  • We must begin reviewing all “In Residence” and “Special Appointment” faculty contracts and, unfortunately, we must consider canceling those that are not deemed essential. This will not be an easy task because we know people’s livelihoods are affected and everyone one of these fine teachers contributes something unique to this university.  We will communicate with everyone once the process is outlined.
  • We have imposed a hiring freeze on all positions, both faculty and staff, except for essential positions. What constitutes an essential position will be strictly defined and determined by the Provost’s or President’s Office.
  • Only essential travel funded by the university is allowed. What constitutes essential travel will be strictly defined and determined by the Provost’s or President’s Office.
  • There is a freeze on all but essential spending. Most P-cards and Bradley credit cards are frozen. Units that have essential spending requirements should work with the CFO’s Office to clear those expenditures.
  • The program prioritization process is suspended. The process of reviewing all operations, both academic and administrative, for mission criticality will be conducted as part of the overall financial stability planning process. We remain committed to a shared governance model, but given the current situation, we must make many decisions quickly, which may not allow time for campus discussions and deliberations in the manner we are used to.

A statement from Roberts reads,

“While the above steps will help bolster our finances this next year, sadly they will not come close to closing a potential 25% or more budget deficit of nearly $40 million. Since salaries and benefits constitute roughly two-thirds of all expenses, reducing workforce costs is something we are going to have to address in the weeks ahead. Please know that we do so with a great sense of concern and responsibility. Our people are our greatest asset. Perhaps the most significant challenge ahead is to make the difficult changes to assure Bradley’s continued long-term excellence while maintaining the strength of the Bradley family.

I am sorry that we have to make these decisions. Please know that we are doing all we can to preserve as many jobs as possible while we preserve our university. I know all of this sounds daunting and painful, but both incoming President Standifird and I remain optimistic about the future of Bradley. Current circumstances certainly pose enormous challenges that will require sacrifices and adjustments that nobody should deny or minimize. But looking down the road, these challenges will force Bradley to ask and answer fundamental questions about the kind of institution it is and wants to be. 

President/Professor Gary Roberts

Beyond the financial scope in the coming semesters, Roberts said $5 million dollars will be returned to students for unused meal plan dollars and housing.

Back in November, Bradley implemented a plan to address an $8 million budget deficit. In January the private institution planned to cut theater, physics, retail merchandising, family and consumer science and the teaching degree in family and consumer science.

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