When Covid-19 arrived, the state system initially predicted that it would take at least $ 52 million, mostly in lost tuition fees and student reimbursements, although $ 39 million from the federal CARES law would mitigate the shot. (Subsequent projections would show an even greater financial impact)
“We faced a financial challenge before the pandemic, seriously challenged before the pandemic,” System Chancellor Dan Greenstein said during a Zoom call with the System Board of Governors. He added: “We have an obligation to address these challenges more urgently now – and at a more accelerated pace.”
The possible cuts included a particularly controversial element: the number of teachers.
The teachers’ union, which is headed by Dr Martin, was struggling to understand the situation, without much success. “I was going to meetings and I felt like they would blindfold me, spin me around and say ‘Pin the tail of the donkey’ and then move the donkey,” said Dr. Martin. “We keep asking ourselves: what is the end of the game?”
Budget numbers tell a complex story. According to some measures, the system is not particularly unhealthy.
For 2019, the latest fiscal year available, the entire system lost just $ 1 million, out of $ 1.6 billion in spending. Depending on the accounting method used, the IUP itself could have made money, according to a union official.
The union official called the terrible budget a “made-up financial crisis”. But the administration of the system said there was a bigger problem: worrying trend lines for the school. He forecast a loss of $ 48 million for the current fiscal year.
“The data has for some time shown declining enrollment, delayed state investment, increases in tuition fees, and reliance on cash reserves to balance budgets,” wrote David Pidgeon, a spokesperson for the system, in an email. “And we’re looking at over a year.”