In a Jan. 26 Board of Trustees meeting, California State University (CSU) Chancellor Joseph Castro announced he will not support a proposed system wide furlough program for university employees in 2021.
This diversion from previous tactics to cut spending comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 3% increase in base funding for CSU schools. The increase is intended to help public university systems financially recover from substantial losses in revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, educational institutions were instructed to keep tuition costs steady and use reserve funds to make up for additional impact.
Prior to Newsom’s proposal, there were talks of systemwide layoffs occurring but no official announcement was ever made.
“Thanks to the Governor’s forward thinking and much appreciated budget proposal and to our own operational efficiencies and prudent management of our resources … I will not support a systemwide furlough program,” Castro said to the CSU Board of Trustees.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the CSU has issued 335 layoff notices to employees across several campuses. But due to the efforts of the CSU Employees Union (CSUEU), only 125 of those layoffs actually occurred.
According to Erin Foote, CSUEU Chapter Organizing Chair, the majority of the furloughs have been because universities no longer have a need for certain positions. At this point, Foote says the union does not expect to hear of any more layoffs in the coming year.
While these localized layoffs throughout 2020 affected universities like Fresno State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has only furloughed employees working for the auxiliary Cal Poly Corporation.
Each of the CSU’s 23 campuses has been uniquely affected by the systemwide deficit. Individual circumstances largely depend on attendance and the number of students living on campus. While universities in Southern California have seen no significant change to enrollment, schools in the northern part of the state have had to cut course offerings and lay off employees.
While some universities are still faced with the harsh reality of layoffs, the CSU pledged to do all that it can to avoid additional layoffs of permanent staff or faculty.
Because of Cal Poly’s high enrollment numbers and the record number of students housed on campus, the need to fill positions has stayed constant despite COVID-19. The university is also anticipating cost-savings related to Cal Poly faculty and staff that chose to participate in the Early Exit Program.
“Campuses have been prudently tapping into their reserves and using cost-control strategies to prevent layoffs,” CSU Public Affairs Manager Hazel Kelly wrote in an email to Mustang News. “Because of this, there have been no full-time employee layoffs at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.”
Though the future of public higher education remains uncertain, CSU officials have remained optimistic about financial conditions.
“President Armstrong continues to emphasize that layoffs involving state employees will be a last resort,” University Spokesperson Matt Lazier said in an email to Mustang News.