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Facing budget shortfall, Cleveland State trustees approve retirement incentive package

Tower with green letters CSU at the top above the trees.
Annie Wu
Ideastream Public Media
James A. Rhodes Tower at Cleveland State University. The university is considering ways to cut its budget or otherwise increase revenues as it deals with declining enrollment and increasing costs.

Cleveland State University’s Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to approve a plan to offer a voluntary separation incentive program for faculty and staff, to help the school contend with what officials say is a $40 million budget shortfall.

The college is using $9 million from its reserves to pay for the program, which is meant to help the college cut costs in the long run by shedding employees. The specifics are yet to be worked out, President Laura Bloomberg told the trustees during the meeting.

"Broad parameters, we're looking at the possibility of offering a voluntary separation agreement for benefits-eligible employees with a certain level of (service), ten years of service, or more; the particulars will be forthcoming," she said. "We hope to have an application process ready by early May."

Bloomberg gave an update to the university’s faculty senate last week, where she said the college’s $40 million shortfall is the result of declining enrollment and higher costs, spokesperson Reena Arora-Sánchez said in a statement issued Friday. The college arrived at that estimated shortfall by projecting what a “status quo approach” would do to the college’s finances, with no attempts to increase revenue or cut costs, she wrote.

 “Investment in growth strategies alone will not be sufficient to address this shortfall," she wrote. "In fact, proposed strategies for growing revenue in the near term are only projected to reduce the deficit to approximately $34 million."

The retirement incentives are part of the university's "plan to build organizational resilience and financial stability," a planning process that started in summer 2023, according to Arora-Sánchez.

"Because of this, throughout the process, the University’s administration has clearly communicated that this comprehensive plan will include recommendations for a combination of budget cutting and cost containment as well as strategic investments – all grounded in CSU’s ongoing commitment to its students and to Northeast Ohio," she wrote.

Other recommendations to save money or invest at the university discussed during the faculty senate meeting include centralized advising, working on employer and community partnerships to offer better post-graduate opportunities, "future-proofing the curriculum, deepening transfer program partnerships and modernizing CSU’s technology infrastructure."

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.