Officials Confront Financial Challenges Posed by Pandemic

Senior leaders describe spending reductions and a hiring freeze.

The provost and executive vice president today announced several steps intended to reduce spending as Dartmouth continues to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective immediately, there is a freeze on staff hiring through the end of December; no salary increase for employees in the fiscal year beginning on July 1; and targeted reductions in spending beginning April 1 on items not related to employee compensation, said Provost Joseph Helble and Executive Vice President Rick Mills in an April 3 email to the Dartmouth community.

"We need to take immediate steps to face the financial challenges ahead," they wrote. "The pandemic's financial impact on Dartmouth at this point leaves us with an operating budget deficit substantially greater than our loss of room and board income for spring term." The institution has lost $15 million in room and board income as classes have moved online for spring term and students have, for the most part, returned home. (Fewer than 200 students who are not able to go home remain on campus.)

A revenue stabilization fund will help buffer the economic effects, but Dartmouth is facing a sizable increase in the number of requests for financial aid, expects a decline in charitable income from donors, and a decline in its institutional investments as a result of the sharp downturn in financial markets, Helble and Mills said.

The announced changes "will help decrease the deficit, but we will likely need to take further action to close the gap. It is important to note that the projected deficit can and will likely change depending on changes in the larger economy and higher education's ability to resume normal residential operations in the months ahead."

It is too early to know whether there will be changes to employment that could result in a shift to part-time work, temporary furloughs, or permanent layoffs, the email said. "Other than the freeze on wages, hiring, and spending, we have not made decisions for the next fiscal year in order to allow time to adjust to our remote operations and to assess revenue and expenses over the next several months.

"We understand that these are stressful times and although we cannot promise to deliver good news, we will stay in touch on questions about budget and employment that will affect the community, and (will) remain transparent about actions that may become necessary if economic conditions do not improve."

Dartmouth last month announced its intention to pay all regular non-temporary staff through June 30.

The email said that the hiring of new faculty would continue only in ongoing searches, subject to approval from the supervising dean and provided funding and related costs are available. Decisions on faculty searches after July 1—the higher education hiring cycle typically begins in the summer—will be made in consultation with academic deans in July, said the email.

In a community message sent to all faculty, staff, and students a week ago, President Philip J. Hanlon '77 wrote that despite the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic, he was optimistic about the institution's future.

"I'm confident that we will overcome the extraordinary financial challenges of the moment and do so in ways that preserve the excellence of our teaching and research and the core commitments we have made to our community," he wrote.

Helble and Mills expressed similar thoughts this week. "This pandemic is unique, but the challenge to Dartmouth is not. With your help, we will continue to forge ahead as a resilient, compassionate community, doing our best to take care of one another, and to remain true to our mission of educating, supporting, and inspiring the next generation," they wrote.

For the latest information on Dartmouth's response to the pandemic, including visit the COVID-19 website.

Susan J. Boutwell can be reached at susan.j.boutwell@dartmouth.edu.