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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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UW-Oshkosh Chancellor announces cost-cutting measures, layoffs to address structural deficit

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt announced the cuts, which will include around 200 layoffs, in a statement Thursday morning.

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh announced layoffs and cost-cutting measures in a Thursday statement from its chancellor as it grapples with budget shortfalls, enrollment decreases and unreliable funding from the state legislature.

The cuts include furloughs and around 200 layoffs for non-faculty employees and administrators, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said the cuts are necessary in the face of “declining higher education rates in Wisconsin … declining state support [making] us more reliant on tuition revenue [and enrollment],” depletion of reserve capital and “rising costs in a post-pandemic, inflationary world.”

Leavitt said UW-Oshkosh projects an $18 million structural deficit in the current fiscal year, and the university’s reserves are running out. 

“It is no longer sustainable for us to operate without dramatic reduction in expenses,” he said in an email to employees obtained by the Journal Sentinel.

UW-Oshkosh student newspaper The Advance-Titan reported in February that Leavitt told a virtual town hall, “I have never been a proponent of, nor will I ever engage in laying off faculty.” At the time, Leavitt urged university staff to be “vigilant with the cash we have on hand” to keep reserves stocked.

“There will be a correction, and I think it will be a fairly modest one if we take steps now,” Leavitt said during that meeting.

But with a $32 million UW System budget cut coming from the 2023-2025 biennial state budget and an increasing reticence from state lawmakers to fund system schools and their projects, Leavitt said UW-Oshkosh is in a difficult position.

UW-Oshkosh Chief Communications Officer Peggy Breister said in a statement around 1,100 employees are subject to layoffs, the Journal Sentinel reported. 

Though UW-Oshkosh will be instituting furloughs and layoffs, UW System President Jay Rothman told reporters Thursday that the measures UW-Oshkosh is taking will not “necessarily follow at the other [UW] universities.” 

As enrollment numbers continue to decline across the state, UW System universities have worked to confront logistic and fiscal challenges. In November 2022, Rothman announced the closure of face-to-face instruction at UW-Platteville Richland due to low enrollment and financial difficulties.

Ally Poss, a UW-Oshkosh alum with a Bachelor of Science degree in English, said she didn’t have issues with class enrollment or staffing. But she "definitely heard concerns with funding different departments and extracurriculars."

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Although her core English classes were “steady” in enrollment, she said many courses for minors programs had to be cut. One English professor, she said, was cut because of enrollment numbers.

All employees will see furloughs, which will commence in September and are planned to remain in effect “through the June 2024 pay periods,” Leavitt said. He called layoffs and non-renewables “unavoidable” and said notifications would come during the fall semester.

“​​With data in hand, it’s time to act aggressively. UWO’s future depends on it,” he said.

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Liam Beran

Liam Beran is the Campus News Editor for The Daily Cardinal and a third-year English major. Throughout his time at the Cardinal, he's written articles for campus, state and in-depth news. Follow him on Twitter at @liampberan.


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