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

Across the country, college and university leaders are revamping campus opening plans. COVID cases are surging in more than half of US states, which will reinforce the need to plan for a largely online fall. As campus leadership grapples with public health planning, many are also actively thinking through tradeoffs that could heavily impact their fall enrollment.

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.

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.

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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