NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack College is laying off 30 non-academic employees and cutting the salaries of top administrators as the school deals with financial fallout from the coronavirus, according to Executive Vice President Jeff Doggett.
He said the college is facing many of the same problems as other universities with students moving off campus, making the conversion to online learning and deciding whether to participate in the fall.
"Higher education across the country is going through difficult and dramatic changes," Doggett said, adding that school leaders are now studying "how (the college) is going to deliver on its academic mission and how students are going to live on campus."
He said the layoffs will not affect professors or teaching positions.
"Merrimack is going to do everything it can to protect its academic mission and make sure it's accessible to people," Doggett said. "We have not laid off any faculty. In fact, we are making an investment in faculty."
He said, however, they made "a number of changes within the institution to reallocate resources, to provide more financial aid, and those changes include salary decreases for me and the president."
He said other staff members are also receiving pay reductions, although he was not specific about who or how much. Nor would he specify which departments are seeing staff reductions.
"The core of any institution is teaching," he said. "How do we provide that to our students? We will do it in the fall, and we will do it safely. But in order to do that, we have to reallocate our resources."
He said athletics would not be affected because "over 20 percent of the student population plays athletics."
However, there will be less travel for students and staff and fewer events on campus, he said.
Perhaps the biggest unknown, and likely the most important consideration, is how many students will enroll next year.
Last year the school had the largest number of applicants in its 73-year history and now carries an enrollment of over 3,600 undergraduates and another 1,400 master's degree students.
About 75 percent of students live on campus, which Doggett says remains a large part of the educational experience.
"We are going to offer our students the best opportunity to live on campus," he said. "Our belief is, there will be a number of students who will take time off. Now is the most important time for any institution to know its enrollment."
He said school administrators are discussing exactly how students will be housed, as dormitories typically have anywhere from two to six students living in close quarters.
"We will do it differently, so we can be safe," he said.
He also said that online education would be combined with in-class education.
"We are going to be flexible," he said. "It won't be a black or white answer. Some people will come to campus, then stay home a few days, while some professors will teach remotely."