Dartmouth to lay off 38 workers now, more in April

By Kathy McCormack
Associated Press Writer / February 8, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H.—Dartmouth College will lay off 38 non-teaching employees now and a similar number in April to help cut the school's budget by $100 million over two years, President Jim Yong Kim said Monday.

Like other Ivy League schools, Dartmouth has seen a sharp drop in the value of its endowment brought on by the recession. In the past fiscal year, the endowment's value fell 23 percent to $2.8 billion, prompting the board of trustees to demand $50 million in cuts for fiscal year 2011 and another $50 million for 2012.

The college also announced a tuition increase and a change in its "no-loan" policy to all students receiving financial aid.

Kim said the college administration achieved about 95 percent of its savings before layoffs, partly by finding low-cost, efficient ways to organize and setting aggressive targets for increasing revenue.

"We had to leave no stone unturned in looking at every part of the effort," Kim said.

The first 38 cuts will start Tuesday. About 60 percent of all the layoffs involve professional and managerial employees; 40 percent represent hourly workers. Together, they represent about 2 percent of Dartmouth's non-teaching work force of 3,400, Kim said. Another 33 non-teaching workers will be asked to work reduced hours.

Kim said he had hoped to be able to announce all of the layoffs at once, but school officials are still looking at all parts of the college to determine which departments would be targeted.

"These are not random layoffs," he said. "Layoffs are happening in areas where we think that we can still perform the services with those layoffs. It's not just an across-the-board cut. Every single layoff that was done was thoughtfully done."

Earl Sweet, president of local 560 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 550 of the non-faculty staff on campus, called the layoffs "a rush to judgment."

"They have not considered other options and have not offered one substantive proposal at negotiations," he said.

The union estimated the percentage of the work force being affected was higher and called upon members of the Dartmouth community to protest by refusing to support Dartmouth-related activities and funding requests. Members of the college community held a candlelight vigil last week and a student group was formed to support the workers.

Laid-off employees will get four weeks notice, a lump-sum payment equivalent to four to 52 weeks of pay depending on years of service, and a health care subsidy. Kim has said he's confident that once the budget gap is resolved, the school can embark on new initiatives that will bring in revenue and allow some workers to be rehired.

Last year, Dartmouth laid off 72 workers; 24 were rehired. More than 100 workers have accepted a voluntary retirement package.

The school's board of trustees, which met over the weekend, also approved an increase of 4.6 percent for undergraduate tuition, room and board fees. It's the smallest percentage increase in five years. Starting this fall, it will cost $52,275 to attend Dartmouth for the academic year. Dartmouth's financial aid budget is increasing 10 percent next year.

The school also made other changes. In the past, it had eliminated loans for all financial aid recipients regardless of family income, giving grants instead.

Starting with students entering in the fall of 2011, however, Dartmouth will reinstitute an income threshold for those families of students making more than $75,000 annually to meet financial aid needs through a mix of loans, scholarships and work study. The no-loan policy has not changed for those families of students making $75,000 and less.

The school also has been looking at all times of ways to become more efficient to save money.

"We're looking at things at a level of extraordinary detail," Kim said. For example, he said that simply by buying trash bags, toilet paper and paper towels through one source instead of multiple ones, the school can save several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"We think that what we've done and the fact that we've done it so quickly puts us in a much better position if there is another downturn," Kim said. "Extending the cuts over a three-, four- or five-year period would have made us ever more vulnerable with each passing year. By doing this now, it is very aggressive but it also sets us up so if there's another downturn we'll be able to weather it, we think, much better than those who have extended the process."