Marquette University eliminates 39 positions to address shortfalls

Marquette University president Michael Lovell.

Last updated on January 22nd, 2021 at 04:38 pm

Marquette University eliminated 39 staff positions this week as it continues to cut costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Michael Lovell did not specify in an announcement Friday which staff positions were affected but said they do not involve any tenured or tenure-track faculty losing their jobs.

The university is also eliminating three vice president positions after deciding to consolidate its offices of Economic Engagement, Marketing and Communication, and Public Affairs. Those offices will now be under the umbrella of the new Office of University Relations, which will be led by vice president and general counsel Paul Jones.

“The past year has been one of the most difficult in Marquette’s history, and today’s news impacts our entire campus community,” Lovell said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt major financial challenges to Marquette, including lost revenue due to declining freshmen enrollment and higher costs associated with increased safety measures.

Marquette’s freshmen enrollment in fall 2020 was down 16% from the previous year, amounting to roughly 350 fewer incoming students, which is in line with national averages. Lovell has said he doesn’t expect those numbers to improve in the fall.

College leaders say the pandemic has accelerated challenges that schools were already bracing themselves for in five years, when it’s projected that the typical college-going population will decrease nationally by 15-20% due to declining birthrates.

In the fall, Lovell said the university is anticipating a $45 million budget shortfall beginning in 2022.

Marquette implemented several cost-cutting measures over the past year to address budget holes. Last summer, the university announced it was suspending employer contributions to the university’s retirement plan and reducing leaders’ salaries to address immediate budget holes.

Other efforts have included reducing discretionary spending, modifying its tenure buyout policy, implementing a voluntary incentivized retirement program, and transitioning positions to endowed funding sources, Lovell said.

“These actions significantly contributed to achieving our long-term goals. They did not fully reach our objectives,” necessitating the elimination of positions, he said.

“These difficult decisions were made with great care and discernment, and I thank each of our colleagues affected by this news for the contributions they’ve made to Marquette,” he said.

Affected staff will receive severance pay and health care subsidies.

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Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits and education for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism. In her free time, Lauren enjoys hiking, kayaking, and seeing live music.

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