Cost cutting runs deep as university faces daunting deficit

By Sarah Siock

Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo announced the elimination of 15 staff positions as a result of a savings initiative put in place to combat a daunting $17.4 million deficit projection, a realization of the administration’s plans for further cost-cutting in the depths of a pandemic, at a town hall meeting on Nov. 4.

In all, the cuts to labor costs are projected to save the university over $15 million over the next two years as the administration maneuvers to get the deficit under control. In addition to the 15 eliminated positions, five staff members were reduced from full-time to part-time.

The plan outlined at the meeting also projected savings generated from other areas of the university, including the elimination of 75 vacant positions, the closing of the College of Continuing Studies and administration salary reductions.

Associate Vice President of University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown said the eliminated positions were from various departments.

“The impacted positions came from several divisions across the university including student affairs, academic affairs, enrollment management, finance and facilities/university operations,” said Brown.

The deficit projection is an increase from a hole of $11.2 million last year.

Dell’Omo said one of the contributing factors to the growing deficit is a decrease of students living in residence halls during the 2020 fall semester.

According to Dell’Omo, the number of students living on campus was predicted to be at 1,000 but ended up being closer to 900.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of when our residence halls are not at full capacity or near full capacity the impact it has on our revenues,” said Dell’Omo.

Dell’Omo spoke to the difficulty of eliminating positions and added that there are no current plans for additional layoffs.

“Losing individuals or colleagues, who have contributed toward Rider’s success is always difficult and painful for them, their families and for the university community as a whole. These decisions are never taken lightly or are they made without significant forethought and they should always be a decision of last resort,” said Dell’Omo. “We wish them all the best in their futures. We offered them severance compensation, assistance with their benefits, as well as support to help them with their transition.”

The lingering effects of the pandemic might be felt in student enrollment as well. Dell’Omo said Rider met its mark for fall enrollment of new students for this semester at 995 students. However, Dell’Omo said that there has been a delay in new student applications for the 2021-2022 school year, threatening to plunge revenues even further next year.

“All schools are experiencing the same situation with a real lag on the inquiries and applications right now,” said Dell’Omo.

The meeting concluded with Dell’Omo announcing that the upcoming spring semester will begin on Feb. 1 — one week later than planned in lieu of a spring break. This decision was made as a COVID-19 precaution to reduce the number of students and faculty traveling during this time then returning to campus.

“As I stay in touch with the governor’s office and with the Secretary of Higher Education’s office, we will constantly be monitoring this situation. There is a lot of concern on how we are going to proceed through these fall months,” said Dell’Omo.

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