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Pollack wrote Wednesday that the University will have “a balanced budget" effective Jan. 1, 2021.

November 18, 2020

Some Cost-Cutting Measures to End Next Year as University Projects Balanced Budget

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Some pandemic-era austerity measures will soon be drawing to a close. 

Effective Jan. 1, 2021, the University plans on ending the temporary reductions to Cornell faculty salaries and retirement benefits instituted earlier this year, President Martha Pollack announced in a Nov. 17 email sent to faculty and staff.   

Beginning in August, the University reduced employer retirement contributions to 3 percent for faculty of Cornell’s endowed colleges, according to a July message sent by Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff. Contract college faculty, on the other hand, faced salary cuts ranging between 0.5 and 5 percent. 

But the January elimination of those policies — which Pollack and Kotlikoff wrote were “the most difficult and painful of the measures that we need to implement” — marks an unexpected reprieve for faculty, as the cost-cutting measures were originally planned to last until summer 2021.  

“I do recognize what a stressful time this is, and I also recognize the challenges that were posed by the temporary reduction in benefits and salary,” Pollack wrote on Tuesday. “So, I am truly pleased that we can end them in just over a month from now.” 

Back in spring, administrators painted a bleak picture of Cornell’s financial health. Citing decreases in enrollment, soaring financial aid need and costly COVID-19 prevention measures, the University projected that it could lose up to $210 million during the current fiscal year. 

But a long list of expense-slimming policies have helped, at least somewhat, stabilize the University’s financial position. In the email, Pollack wrote that the University will have “a balanced budget.” 

According to Cornell’s most recent budget plan, the University forecasts revenues of $4.72 billion for the 2021 fiscal year, a 0.4 percent increase compared to last year, and expenses of $4.77 billion, a 0.2 percent decrease.   

In addition to faculty salary cuts, austerity measures have also included a hiring pause, sharp limits on discretionary spending, restricting travel and a pause on new capital expenditures. Most of those limitations are still slated to continue. 

“The University has responded quickly and strongly to the financial pressures resulting from the pandemic and is well-positioned to manage through these challenges,” wrote Paul Streeter, vice president for budget and planning, in the budget plan. 

Correction, 2:30 p.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that faculty retirement contributions had been reduced by 3 percent; rather, they were reduced to 3 percent from 10 percent. This story has since been updated.