About 4,000 staff members are eligible for the program, NU spokesman Bob Rowley said via email. Faculty are not being offered the buyout.
In an email, Rowley emphasized that the figure of 150 to 200 is an estimate. The school will not know how many employees apply for the program until the end of the month and will not know how many buyouts are approved until mid-July, according to Rowley.
Northwestern will reserve the right to accept or reject an employee’s wish to participate in the separation plan.
The June 8 offer was made to certain full- and part-time employees who have worked for the school for at least two years and were eligible for benefits during that period.
“We have made this decision because, despite signs of renewed economic activity, we still anticipate reduced revenues and additional expenses next fiscal year related to the pandemic,” Rowley said in an email. “In this context, a voluntary separation plan supplements the cost-containment measures we have taken already, allows us to manage staffing levels to match our outlook and reduces the possibility of potential actions such as further furloughs or involuntary layoffs.”
The current voluntary separation program is in addition to the university's May move to Northwestern said it also suspended contributions to employee retirement plans, reduced university leaders’ pay and temporarily increased drawing money from its billion-dollar endowment in light of a projected $90 million budget shortfall for the current 2020 fiscal year.
If 200 employees were to take the buyouts, recent reductions, including the May furloughs, would amount to about 7 percent of the university’s staff, which is approximately 6,500 full- and part-time employees, according to its website. Separately, the university has about 3,300 faculty members, the site says.
Earlier in the month, the university was planning to offer the buyouts to 5,150 employees, according to a June 2 Northwestern document obtained by Crain’s, but Rowley said that number was later reduced mainly because the school decided to exclude employees with less than two years of service.
The buyouts were “intended to increase financial capacity in FY 2021, offer schools and units the flexibility to reorganize locally, and reduce the scope and reputational impact of any potential involuntary layoffs,” the document said. It also noted the voluntary package would be “more generous than what would be offered for an involuntary separation.”
The school said this month that it’s planning to reopen its main Evanston campus this fall, convening about a week earlier than usual, with students expected to meet certain requirements related to mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing, among other things.