St. John’s is implementing a “hiring pause because of lower than expected net tuition revenue, according to an email from President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw that was sent to the University community this month.
The Torch obtained a copy of the email on Nov. 15 that announces the various initiatives designed to ensure financial stability.
“While the University did enroll a first-year class of 3,135 students … merit scholarships and financial aid also significantly increased given the heightened competition for students. Our total institutional financial aid is projected to reach $278 million this year, up from $269 million last year. Several other factors have contributed to this year’s lower net tuition revenue,” University Spokesperson Brian Browne said in a statement to the Torch. He also cites the departure of a large graduating class, lower sophomore retention and lower transfer student enrollment.
His statement, as quoted, directly mirrors the content of the email. It then goes on to describe the hiring pause, which has an indefinite end. “The University will implement a hiring pause for full-time administrator/staff positions effective immediately. Key vacancies necessary to support strategic initiatives and critical operations will be considered for recruitment or replacement. The University will consider lifting the hiring pause in the Spring semester,” Browne said.
In order to regain lost revenue, the University is also implementing budget givebacks. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “giveback” in the financial sense as “a previous gain (such as an increase in wages or benefits) given back to management by workers (as in a labor contract).” In this case, the giveback would be budget givebacks from operating budgets in all areas of the University. “The primary goal of these givebacks is to generate budgetary savings while avoiding disruption of services to our students,” Browne said. It is also possible that these givebacks could continue into the 2020-2021 school year. “But that will be decided during the FY21 budget planning process in the coming months,” he said.
In the past, St. John’s has attempted to recover from 2014’s enrollment decline by implementing selective hiring. In an interview with the Torch in 2018, President Gempesaw said “Many schools, when they face enrollment declines…They attempt to increase revenues by increasing tuition. We have not done that here during my time as president.”