In an effort to address the unprecedented financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Furman University on Monday announced that it would cut the salaries of the president and senior administrators, implement furloughs and budget reductions and discontinue the baseball and men’s lacrosse programs.
The university is focusing now on returning in the fall for in-person instruction. Senior leadership and emergency management teams, together with a task force of trustees, have been meeting regularly since January to address both urgent and long-term issues related to the pandemic. They are currently developing a detailed plan to reopen the campus that will be announced in the next few weeks.
“As we all know from our shared experience, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust us into a global crisis we could not have imagined six months ago,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “We are taking these steps to ensure that our university can thrive and continue to carry out its academic mission at the highest level of quality and engagement.
“Although our fall semester might feel different than usual, I’m looking forward to welcoming first-year and returning students back to campus for a uniquely Furman experience.”
As is the case for universities across the country, Furman has experienced dramatic reductions in revenue. After shifting to remote instruction in March, the university refunded millions in room and board and other fees while incurring new costs related to the pandemic, such as increased technology support. The cancellation of camps and conferences, performances and other events through the summer resulted in additional losses. At the same time, the value of the university’s endowment dropped by more than $100 million as the global economy and markets experienced downturns.
Like most universities, Furman is expecting a decrease in enrollment this fall as many students decide to postpone college or enroll at schools closer to their homes. The combined losses in tuition and other revenues, along with the added costs of the pandemic, are expected to result in a multimillion-dollar deficit for Furman in the coming fiscal year.
“Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been focused on prioritizing the health and safety of the Furman community while working to ensure that our students are able to make progress in their academic programs,” President Davis said.
With those priorities in mind, the university took several steps announced earlier that included freezing open positions, placing construction projects on hold and limiting expenditures to those that are absolutely essential for educating, supporting and recruiting students and for maintaining basic business operations.
With the Furman Board of Trustees’ unanimous endorsement, the university announced these additional measures today:
- A voluntary 20% salary reduction for the president and a voluntary 10% salary reduction for the vice presidents, athletics director, head coaches for football and men’s basketball, and other more highly compensated employees.
- A 5.5% reduction in operating budgets for the next fiscal year.
- A reduction of 2.5 percentage points in Furman’s contribution to employee retirement plans.
- Summer furloughs for employees with diminished workloads, and two weeks of furloughs (or equivalent) for all other employees to be taken during the next fiscal year. Furman’s human resources office will assist furloughed employees, who will retain their health benefits, with applying for unemployment and other assistance.
- Discontinuing the baseball and men’s lacrosse programs immediately, and reducing the total number of athletics scholarships by 45 over the next five years, with the reductions spread across multiple sports.
The university was already in the process of developing a comprehensive long-term strategy for its athletics programs in alignment with its investment in its academic mission and vision, The Furman Advantage. The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this process.
Furman will honor the scholarships of current and incoming student athletes in baseball and men’s lacrosse for the remainder of their undergraduate academic careers at Furman, and assist them with transferring to another institution if they decide to do so.
“This is a difficult day for Furman Athletics,” said Director of Athletics Jason Donnelly. “We are proud of Furman’s athletics history and tradition and the student athletes and coaches who have competed as Paladins. Moving forward, Furman Athletics will operate as an 18-sport varsity program that supports academic and athletic excellence, financial stability, gender equity and sustainable competitive success with an emphasis on revenue generation and philanthropy.
“Our immediate focus is on supporting our student athletes and coaches impacted by today’s decisions, as well as our alumni and fans who so passionately support our programs,” Donnelly added. “The legacy of Furman baseball and men’s lacrosse will be remembered and celebrated.”
“None of these decisions was easy or made lightly,” President Davis said. “But I can say with great sincerity that each was carefully considered and adopted in the interest of advancing the university and fulfilling its academic mission.
“Furman’s greatest qualities,” Davis continued, “are our community’s commitment to serving and nurturing our students and one another, our ability to adapt and meet challenges head on and our grace and kindness through it all. Working together, we will get through this and emerge a stronger university.”