Pitt schools preparing for possible budget cuts


Kaycee Orwig | Visual Editor

The news about a possible budget cut also arrives as Pitt continues to work to prepare its budget for the next academic year.

By Jon Moss, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s note: News tips can be confidentially submitted to The Pitt News at [email protected].

Pitt schools are preparing for possible budget cuts of as much as 10% for the 2020-21 academic year that would affect Pitt’s education and general budget, which includes all schools except for the School of Medicine, Pitt confirmed Thursday.

According to a faculty member in the Katz Graduate School of Business, who wished to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, business faculty were told by Katz administrators that they were considering several options to plug a possible budget hole. These options include early retirement for senior faculty and freezes for expenses or new hires.

The preparations come as the University stares down an uncertain financial future due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said at last month’s Senate Council meeting that Pitt’s net deficit stood at $30 to 40 million, after around $10 million in cost savings. Gallagher will likely provide another update on the budget at Thursday afternoon’s Senate Council meeting.

The news about a possible budget cut also arrives as Pitt continues to work to prepare its budget for the next academic year. The University Planning and Budget Committee, which provides recommendations on tuition rates and budget changes to the chancellor as part of the annual budget process, is expected to vote on these budget parameters at an early June meeting. It traditionally approves figures in April, but decided to push back the decision due to financial uncertainty.

Chris Bonneau, the president of the University Senate, said he supports giving deans a head start to comb through their budgets for savings in anticipation of possible budget cuts.

“In these financially stressed times, giving folks more time to make tough decisions is preferable to having them rushed,” Bonneau, a political science professor, said.

Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said the University has not made any final budget decisions for next year and is still in the early stages of the planning process, which includes planning for and considering multiple possible scenarios.

But despite that the budget has not been finalized, one dean had informed faculty this week that a 10% budget cut had been agreed to, before walking it back one day later.

Kathy Blee, the dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and College of General Studies, said in a Tuesday letter to department chairs obtained by The Pitt News that all departments should expect a 10% budget cut next year. She said in a clarifying Wednesday letter obtained by The Pitt News that the 10% figure was one of several scenarios under discussion, and was shared in the “spirit of planning.”

Blee added that all Dietrich operating units, per her direction, must stop making expense commitments for the next academic year.

“This includes any commitments/offers to hire postdocs, students, or others, to continue staff position, to make purchases, and any other financial commitments except in very urgent situations,” Blee said in the Wednesday letter.