Managing the financial impacts of COVID-19

Nov. 17, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Last summer, as the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were becoming clear, we held a number of meetings and town halls to describe those impacts and to discuss the approaches that Cornell could take to address them. Ultimately, as you all know, the university instituted a number of cost-savings measures to ensure the continued financial health of Cornell. These included the very difficult steps of temporarily reducing employee retirement benefits (in the endowed colleges) and salaries (in the contract colleges), beginning Aug. 1. While we knew that these actions would be painful, they were necessary to preserve faculty and staff jobs to the maximum extent possible, while offering a safe and rewarding educational experience for our students this year.

When we put these measures in place, we promised to carefully monitor our financial situation, to provide an update to faculty and staff before the end of the calendar year, and to stop the reductions to retirement contribution and salary as soon we could be confident that the actions taken would allow us to achieve a balanced budget.

As I announced earlier today at the Faculty and Staff Town Hall, I am delighted to report that we have reached that milestone. Our latest financial projections show that as long as we continue with our other cost containment actions, notably including strict limits on discretionary spending and a hiring pause, we can and will again begin providing full retirement benefits and salaries, effective Jan. 1, 2021, and have a balanced budget.

I do recognize what a stressful time this is, and I also recognize the challenges that were posed by the temporary reduction in benefits and salary. So, I am truly pleased that we can end them in just over a month from now. Thank you all again for your commitment and for being a part of this great community. We will continue to keep you informed regarding any significant changes to the university’s financial outlook.


Martha Pollack