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BU to lay off or furlough 250 employees due to virus shortfalls

Boston University anticipates layoffs and furloughs of 250 employees.
Boston University anticipates layoffs and furloughs of 250 employees.Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe

Boston University will have to furlough or lay off about 250 employees to help cover a $96 million estimated budget gap in the upcoming academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a message to faculty and staff, BU President Robert Brown said the university expects a total revenue shortfall of $264 million in the fiscal year starting July 1 and has tapped into some of its reserves, reduced salaries, and frozen retirement contributions to save about $168 million. But that still leaves about $96 million to make up, Brown said.

“Regrettably, layoffs and furloughs (unpaid leaves of absence with benefits continuation) will be necessary in some units of the University as a consequence of the shortfalls we are predicting,” Brown said.

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Brown warned that the financial outlook still remains uncertain because the university isn’t sure how many students will show up this fall.

Student deposits, indicating a promise to attend, are “strong” although Brown did not provide a comparison to previous years. Still, whether these students can and will be able to attend fall and spring semester is unclear. That’s especially true for international students, who make up about 10,600 of BU’s 34,700 students. New international students are still trying to obtain visas to come to the US and study.

“I must reiterate the considerable uncertainty that still exists relative to what our enrollments will be in the fall, and thus, what actual revenue and expenses will be, compared to our revised budget,” Brown wrote in his message. “It is possible that further budget reductions will be necessary."

BU has been among the most confident of Boston area campuses about bringing students back for the fall semester. The university plans to open a testing facility and has informed students that it will offer both online and in-person classes this fall.

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But the university administrators also have received pushback from faculty and graduate students who say they are concerned about teaching face-to-face classes and that their health concerns have been minimized.


Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.