Universities across country institute furloughs

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 | 8:18 p.m. CST; updated 8:50 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — More public universities are asking employees to take unpaid days off to make up growing budget deficits.

Universities such as Arizona State, Utah State, Clemson and Maryland have already initiated these so-called furloughs to meet budget gaps.

On Tuesday, UM System President Gary Forsee told faculty and staff in a memo that he will ask the Board of Curators to grant him authority to institute furloughs if necessary.

Universities across the country are moving to impose furloughs when state legislatures decide to withhold funds for the current fiscal year. Many see this as a more compassionate alternative to layoffs.

Managing the furloughs varies from campus to campus, but most are mandating that unpaid days be taken before the end of the current fiscal year.

Clemson University is asking all employees to give up five days' pay before June 30. Arizona State University is asking employees to take 10 to 15 days off without pay in the same time frame.  

“For the 2009 budget, there wasn’t a lot of time to make up the money we had to give back,” Arizona State spokeswoman Sharon Keeler said.  “It was decided that furloughs would be the best way to go.”

At Arizona State, upper-level administrators, deans and vice presidents must take 15 days off, while classified staff will take 10 days off.

Keeler said the university expects to save $24 million by implementing furloughs, although she said the exact amount of cuts by the state remained uncertain.


The University System of Maryland is also requiring employees to take up to five days of unpaid leave depending on their salary, according to an e-mail from spokeswoman Anne Moultrie. Under this plan, employees making less than $30,000 may not need to give up any days of work.

Clemson University has already lost $38 million in state appropriations during the current fiscal year, according to Robin Denny, Clemson's director of news services.

“It’s quite severe here in South Carolina,” Denny said.

Some Clemson employees were able to apply for money from a Furlough Relief Fund established by the university and funded by donations from faculty, staff, students, administrators, trustees, businesses and friends of the university.

“Many people said, 'Is there a way that we can help people on the lower end of the pay scale?' " Denny said.

According to the Clemson University Web site, university officials were able to raise more than $71,000 for the fund to help university employees who would be affected more by the furloughs because of their lower salaries.

Many of the universities are seeking ways to manage their budget situations.  Denny said Clemson University was continuing to take suggestions from the campus community to help solve the budget situation for the next fiscal year.

“The furloughs are only helping us this year,” Denny said.



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