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Colleges cut budgets during pandemic, with nothing prohibited

A Chronicle of Higher Education database that tracks budget triage has documented more than 100 suspended programs, from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences, which will not be taking new doctoral students next fall, to the Rice University, which suspended admissions for the five. doctoral programs in his school of humanities.

Most of the suspensions relate to social sciences and humanities programs where universities – rather than outside funders such as companies, foundations and the federal government – generally guarantee the multi-year financial support offered to doctoral students. University officials say the suspensions are necessary so that their limited budgets can continue to support already doctoral students. pipelines.

But Suzanne T. Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, noted that the disruption of this pipeline could also have a prolonged impact on the higher education workforce, diverting promising students from low-income households. , for example, or discouraging applicants who might have the necessary diversity on faculty rosters.

As it stands, the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the less well-off students: a survey of 292 private non-profit schools released last week by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities found Reported a drop of nearly 8% in enrollment among students who receive a Pell Grants.

“A few years off isn’t necessarily the end of the world and can even be a good thing,” Ms. Ortega said. “But if our universities don’t keep in touch with these students, and communicate with them, and encourage them to keep thinking about postgraduate school, we could have our own lost generation of students looking after other things and don’t. make their dreams come true. “

As schools exhaust the possibilities of adjustment around the margins, what remains, say administrators, is the payroll, usually the most important item in higher education. Since February, when the coronavirus hit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that colleges and universities have cut more than 300,000 jobs, most of them non-professionals.

“Some of these institutions have re-budgeted three, four, five times,” said Jim Hundrieser, vice president of consulting and business development at the National Association of College and University Business Officers, a professional organization for financial officers. of higher education.

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