COLLEGE PARK -- The University of Maryland in College Park detailed a furlough plan to weather its continuing budget crisis yesterday that exempts employees who earn less than $25,000.
The highest-paid staff, including deans, department chairs, vice presidents and the university president, would be hardest hit under the plan announced this week.
Three days of furloughs would raise $1 million of more than $8.5 million sliced from the main research campus' budget because of an unexpected drop in state revenues. The furloughs will start later this semester, affecting 3,000 to 4,000 people if the details are approved by the university's regents.
Furloughs are one part of the campus' answer to severe budget cuts this year. In an address to faculty and staff Monday, President William E. Kirwan said next year's financial picture looks even worse and so do the remedies: As many as 243 full-time positions may have to be eliminated and tuition increased by 17.5 percent unless lawmakers pass new taxes or the economy improves enough to boost state revenue. An emergency 15 percent tuition surcharge is already in effect for next semester.
The 243 layoffs would free up $8.2 million of the estimated $30 million in spending cuts the campus might be forced to take starting next July 1. In the last two years, the campus has lost 25 percent of its state funds, one of the largest cuts to any university campus in the country, Dr. Kirwan said. One result is that College Park is now reviewing plans to cut up to eight academic departments.
In his state-of-the-campus speech, the president said College Park, which enjoyed the promise of major infusions of money only two years ago, now is "caught in a battle of wills" between the governor and state legislature over taxes.
In a blunt assessment of the campus' future, the president expressed his frustration at the state of affairs just when the campus "is on the verge of becoming a university of first rank."
But he held out hope for the future, noting explicit commitments from the state legislature, the state higher education commission and more recently, university regents, to make College Park the No. 1 priority for any new higher education funds.
In addition to layoffs, which the president said would not affect tenured faculty, the campus will also investigate whether it can accelerate early retirements, cut more administrative costs and press forward with its examination of eight departments or colleges targeted for elimination. A report is due in December.
In addition, Dr. Kirwan said in his speech, the campus will mobilize students and alumni to educate the media and citizens and to lobby Annapolis.