MU eliminating 25 staff positions in ongoing budget process

Tribune file photo.

Tribune file photo.

Marquette is eliminating 25 staff positions in an effort to cut costs, announced Interim University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild in a letter to faculty and staff Wednesday. No faculty positions are affected.

Andrew Brodzeller, associate director of university communication, said he could not provide specific details about the positions being cut, but did confirm that supervisors were in the process Wednesday of informing the 25 employees their time at Marquette is ending.

“Decisions such as these are among the toughest we face as university leaders,” Wild said in the letter. “Although Marquette has operated with positive margins for the past 16 years, they have remained thin. The decisions announced today are steps we must take to ensure the university’s long-term fiscal health.”

Each laid off employee will receive a severance package that includes extended pay and benefits, and is being offered “spiritual and career transition assistance.” Brodzeller said the university contracted Lee Hecht Harrison, a worldwide career transition firm, to provide career coaches with knowledge in the job market, strategies for job searches and polishing communication skills, among other services.

Wild said these 25 staff reductions combined with future employee turnover, retirements and not filling some current vacancies would total in 105 staff reductions from the total employee base of 2,800. Brodzeller also noted that the budget process is “ongoing.”

In November, Wild asked each dean and vice president to conduct a financial review of their colleges and operating divisions and then propose three budget cut scenarios to the President’s Advisory Group. Wild also outlined goals for the university for the 2015 fiscal year, including creating a balanced budget that includes a contingency fund, decreasing tuition, providing a merit salary pool and creating a Strategic Initiatives Pool.

The university announced two months later tuition would increase 3.7 percent, or $1,280 more, for the 2014-15 school year, which is the smallest increase since the 2009-10 school year. This continued a trend of Marquette’s tuition growth slowing over the past four years, which Wild attributed to examining the budget and making “cost-reduction initiatives.”

“My top priority since October has been working with the university leadership team to take a proactive approach to reduce costs and improve efficiencies across campus,” Wild wrote in his letter announcing the tuition increase. “This fiscal focus recognizes our need to control costs for students and parents, while continuing to provide a Catholic, Jesuit education steeped in excellence.”

Nearly a year ago, Marquette asked departments to reduce or return 2 percent of the 2013 budget. That request followed a report in which Moody’s changed its projected shift from a “stable” to “negative” growth for the higher education industry. According to a survey conducted by Moody’s then, 18 percent of its private university and 17 percent of its public university respondents projected a decline in net tuition revenue.

According to Marquette University’s Financial Statements, about 58.5 percent of the university’s total operating revenues comes from tuition and room and board fees.