EAB’s latest take on the coronavirus crisis and what it means for higher education

EAB’s latest take on the coronavirus crisis and what it means for higher education

EAB's Latest Take

As institutions grapple with COVID-related expenses—and anticipate future budget shortfalls—some have begun furloughing staff to temporarily reduce salary costs. While furloughs are an attractive alternative to layoffs, most institutions haven’t considered furloughing staff since the Great Recession—and today’s circumstances are quite different than they were a decade ago. As a result, leaders are adapting their historic furlough approach to the COVID-19 context.

As governments around the world scramble to respond to COVID-19’s financial impacts, many countries have introduced relief packages for their respective tertiary or higher education sectors. In most instances, government relief accounts for just a fraction of universities’ expected losses. Higher education providers in some countries are receiving no direct emergency funding at all, with policy changes making up the bulk of government action. To make sense of the different support packages and policy changes affecting HEIs, EAB has put together a short summary of where universities stand in terms of relief in different corners of the globe.

Higher education leaders have spent the last few weeks anticipating how Washington will help colleges and universities get through the COVID-19 crisis. Now, federal assistance is, at last, on the way, though several complex provisions await implementation, making their impact uncertain.

The COVID-19 crisis is still unfolding, but higher education leaders are already projecting significant financial losses and preparing for a range of challenging budget scenarios. EAB recently surveyed over 100 business and finance leaders from higher education institutions across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland to learn how they’re responding to new financial pressures.

Facing new financial pressures from COVID-19, a growing number of institutions are contemplating furloughs as a way to avoid layoffs, retain staff, and generate short-term salary savings. Some are indefinitely furloughing staff whose jobs cannot be performed remotely. Others are asking all staff to take a pre-defined number of furlough days.

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