A student passes by the Ithaca College Library. IC has already furloughed employees and reduced salaries to cut costs.

Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

A student passes by the Ithaca College Library. IC has already furloughed employees and reduced salaries to cut costs.

May 13, 2020

Ithaca Colleges Scramble to Cut Costs as They Confront Uncertain Future

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While Cornell is anticipating furloughs amid hundreds of millions in projected coronavirus losses, other Ithaca colleges have already had to endure tough logistical and financial cutbacks.

Ithaca College has furloughed 167 employees, and 294 staff have faced voluntary or involuntary reductions in salary and hours, the Ithaca Times reported on April 28. As of now, Tompkins Cortland Community College has not had to implement furloughs or layoffs, but the uncertainty surrounding funding for the upcoming school year is still cause for concern.

IC has implemented several “voluntary reduction” options for employees to cut costs. Some staff had until May 4 to choose between a retirement incentive program, phased retirement, voluntary reduction in scheduled hours, unpaid leave and voluntary salary reductions.

“Between the voluntary and involuntary reductions, we are approaching upwards of 15 percent in terms of an overall reduction of our workforce, although that number could change,” Hayley Harris, IC vice president for human resources and planning, told the Times.

Harris also said that implementing reductions is difficult work, and filling in the gaps left behind from retiring staff will require the college administration to get “creative.”

However, she remained optimistic that the involuntary furloughs would be temporary.

IC spokesperson David Maley told the Times that if employees are able to return to campus this summer, student employees would also return.

“The number of staff and faculty who take those voluntary reductions will not necessarily impact the overall number of involuntary reductions, most of which are based on changes in business need,” Maley told the Times. “Both are necessary in order to preserve the college’s long-term future.”

TC3’s summer classes start May 27, but they will all be held online. Fall semester classes are scheduled to begin August 31, but the mode of instruction remains unclear.

“We are making preparations for all possibilities for the fall with the hope that we will be back on campus and teaching in-person,” said Peter Voorhees, the public information officer at TC3.

TC3 has also pushed its two-week study abroad program until January 2021.

Voorhees added that budget planning for the 2020-21 school year has been challenging and “evolving.” The college’s Board of Trustees will adopt the budget in June, with approval then needed by the state and both counties, Tompkins and Cortland.

“Our finance team is looking at several options and trying to gather as much information as possible on the many variables before submitting a proposal to the board,” Voorhees said.

Two of the largest sources of funding are still in limbo: The amount of aid the college gets from the state and the number of enrolled students.

TC3 doesn’t know if the approved state aid will be altered and if any federal aid will be available to help offset a potential drop in enrollment.

While the college can usually estimate potential enrollment numbers for upcoming semesters, they can’t say the same this year.

“With so many new uncertainties, we really don’t have the same level of confidence in predicting our enrollment for the fall,” Voorhees said.