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Princeton University freezes salary increases, asks departments to cut non-essential spending in response to COVID-19 crisis (updated)

Faculty and staff members at Princeton University received an email on Wednesday outlining measures to cut costs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its fiscal impact on the school.

Princeton University Provost Debbie Prentice informed employees that the university is suspending faculty and staff salary increases and merit raises, with the exception of salary increases for faculty promotion and retention. The university is also carefully managing staffing levels to sustain the current workforce for as long as possible. “Our goal is to protect the positions of those currently working at Princeton,” she wrote. “That means that all requests for new permanent and term positions and hires, including filling open vacancies, will be approved on an exceptional basis only — and the bar will be high.”

Departments can continue to use their temporary hourly, casual, and contract employees through the end of the semester, but the university won’t be able to guarantee support for all of the positions over the long term. “Understanding that our operating picture will look very different heading into the summer, we are asking managers to start planning now for a decreased dependence on these positions beginning June 2,” she wrote.

University officials are also asking managers to look for ways to better leverage existing staff members whose primary responsibilities cannot be fulfilled under the current ‘stay at home’ order and social distancing protocols.

School officials are asking departments across campus to cut all non-essential spending. “We do not know how long this health emergency will last, and we do not know how deep the economic impacts will be,” Prentice wrote.

“Every dollar we can save now will give us more flexibility to support our core priorities as the long-term economic picture becomes clearer,” she wrote. “Each one of us can make a difference when it comes to spending. If you see areas where we can save, please raise them to your manager. All ideas are welcome, and no amount of savings is too small for us to pursue.”

Princeton University’s endowment earned a 6.2 percent investment gain for the fiscal year that ended June 30 of 2019. The endowment value stood at $26.1 billion, an increase of about $200 million from the previous year. Princeton had the fifth largest endowment of any university in the country in 2019, according to the 2019 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. Harvard University was number one with $39.4 billion, followed by the University of Texas System, Yale University, and Stanford University.

Editor’s note: A university spokesman said Thursday that salary increases in relation to faculty promotion and retention have not been suspended. The story has been updated.