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Penn State estimates 50 full-time job cuts this year

Plus: Why State College's anti-gambling movement couldn't stop Nittany Mall casino

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May 4, 2023
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Inside this edition: Penn State estimates cutting 50 full-time jobs this year, State College school board candidate is escorted out of high school by security, and DuBois paid legal fees for accused city manager.
Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi told the Faculty Senate last month that there “may be 50 jobs that are in jeopardy this year” as the university attempts to reduce its reported multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

At the April 25 meeting, Bendapudi said that individuals who lose their jobs will be given priority in hiring for other university positions.

“President Bendapudi has indicated there are limited layoffs anticipated this fiscal year,” the university wrote in an email to Spotlight PA. “It is estimated that less than 50 full-time employees will be impacted from across the University. … As units work to balance their budgets, units are also considering delaying program launches, deferring purchases or improvements, eliminating programs, measuring attrition and unfilled positions, and restructuring, as well as considering new ventures to increase revenues.”

However, Penn State’s layoff projection does not include fixed-term employees whose contracts will not be renewed, the university told Spotlight PA. Penn State said such contracts may not be renewed for reasons “beyond budgetary considerations, including, for example, when outside funding for such positions ends or when enrollment trends and careful analysis show certain programs are no longer viable.”

The university would not specify how much it expects to save by eliminating the roughly 50 full-time positions. Penn State also said it does not have an estimate of the number of research and teaching assistantships that could be cut.

The university’s layoff projection comes amid the university working to balance its budget by 2025, which includes reducing a projected $149 million deficit in the general funds budget, according to Penn State’s fiscal office.

Last year, some university trustees who had approved Penn State’s budgets for years expressed shock at the university’s deficit, as did Bendapudi.

Last summer, the university implemented a “strategic hiring freeze” to help address the shortfall, though exceptions were made for some positions. The administration also cited financial concerns in its decision to scrap the university’s promised Center for Racial Justice

In March, Justin Schwartz, then-interim executive vice president and provost, directed chancellors, deans, and other university leaders to provide the administration with “your best estimate of the total number of positions from your unit that you predict are necessary to eliminate during this fiscal year,” according to internal communications obtained by Spotlight PA.

University leadership acknowledged in March that cuts to some units would go beyond the previously pledged 4% maximum per fiscal year under the new budget model. Penn State has declined to identify which units might receive greater-than-expected budget cuts. However, the College of Engineering is expected to make deeper cuts, and a university spokesperson told WPSU in March that it would be “impossible to avoid some layoffs” in the college.

The administration has said repeatedly there are no plans for mass layoffs.

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) requires employers to provide 60 days notice before a plant closing or mass layoff. The law applies when 500 or more people lose their jobs, or when between 50 and 499 people lose employment and the reduction affects at least one-third of the company’s workforce. Whether employers have to report layoffs of fixed-term employees depends on the terms of individual contracts.

Schwartz’s email to department heads in March specifically mentioned the university’s timeline must comply with the WARN Act.

Wyatt Massey, Penn State Investigative Reporter
“It’s hard to compare [gaming legislation] to other uses, because there is a pretty unusual legislative regime that exists there. It’s certainly not typical.”

—Blaine Lucas, a Pittsburgh-based attorney who specializes in zoning law, on how the locations of casinos are decided in Pennsylvania
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Daniel Fishel / For Spotlight PA
» A complete guide to the May 16 primary
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» A guide to requesting, filling out, and returning your mail ballot
» A guide to vetting candidates
» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates
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» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1
» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary here; deadline May 9

En Español: 

» Guía completa para el día de las elecciones primarias de Pa. 2023
» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado
» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte de la Commonwealth y Cortes Superiores
» Guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
» Todo lo que necesita saber para solicitar, llenar y devolver su papeleta de voto por correo

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Spring green on a back road in Tioga County — captured by Linda Stager.

Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to
» CDT: School board candidate escorted out of State High by security
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Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» May 4-23: Organizations across central Pa. host events for Remake Learning Days, which give “all youth the opportunity to experience the future of learning.”

» May 5-6: Enjoy music, food, and carnival attractions at the 55th Potter-Tioga Maple Festival in Coudersport.

» May 6: Shop for your garden at the Central Pa. Native Plant Festival at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center in State College.

» May 6: Garden Treasures Gathering Festival in Karthaus features local produced arts, crafts, food, and plants 

» May 9: Peggy Ann Bradnick Jackson, who was kidnapped in 1966 in Huntingdon County, speaks at a barbecue dinner fundraiser for the county's historical society.
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