USC announces hiring freeze, pay cuts and online summer programs due to economic hit related to COVID-19

The school reacted to a financial shock created by the COVID-19 pandemic, slowdowns in philanthropy and a multi-million dollar federal settlement.

A memo released from the Provost’s Office on Friday announced that summer courses will be held online, the university is pausing hiring and merit increase for faculty and staff and senior leadership officers have accepted a reduction in their salaries to redirect funds towards combating the COVID-19 outbreak.

The announcement, written by Provost Charles Zukoski and Senior Vice President for Finance James Staten, came with a series of other actions USC is taking to stem the financial impact of the pandemic that has ravaged the global economy.

The entirety of the first summer term, which lasts from May 20 to June 30, will be held online. Previously, USC announced more flexibility for the Pass/No Pass grading option due to the online instruction for the spring semester. USC will revert back to regular grading for the summer term, and tuition for the summer session will remain the same, according to a USC spokesperson. Tuition for the summer 2020 session at USC is currently listed as $1,928, per unit.

All summer learning abroad programs were also cancelled. In late April, university members will meet to evaluate whether second summer term classes, lasting from July 1 to Aug. 11, will be held in-person.

USC announced a hiring freeze for faculty and staff positions until further notice.

“Our objective is to focus support on our existing faculty and staff,” the email reads. “Deans will review with the Provost the status of authorized, ongoing faculty searches and jointly determine which, if any, can proceed this spring. Additional guidelines, which will include an exception process, will be announced shortly.”

USC also paused “merit increases” in salary for existing faculty and staff. Merit increases are commonly understood as a pay raise or bonus, brought about by good job performance. Exceptions to this freeze will be reviewed by the Provost.

The university will develop “a salary program” for first responders and clinical staff as well, who have encountered “significant challenges” during the outbreak, as stated in the memo. Details on a salary program for these groups will be announced soon.

Members of USC leadership will “voluntarily” take pay cuts to transfer funds toward financial aid and emergency assistance programs for students and employees, the email stated. USC President Carol Folt will take a 20% reduction in salary, while the provost, senior vice presidents and deans will reduce 10% of their salary.

The memo stated that these are in light of significant financial difficulties for USC, including the costs of battling the coronavirus pandemic, reductions in clinical revenue, uncertainty about enrollment rates, increased need for financial aid and a slowdown in philanthropy and donations as well as ongoing payouts related to the $215 million federal settlement in the sexual misconduct case against former USC gynecologist, George Tyndall.

The USC spokesperson told Annenberg Media in a phone call that these new actions will last indefinitely.

“Ultimately, this depends on how long the COVID-19 health crisis continues and how that impacts us financially,” the spokesperson said.

In addition, USC has paused all non-essential university-sanctioned business travel, discretionary spending on banquets and “other expenditures that are not critical to the operation of the University.” They also intend to re-evaluate all capital projects, such as new buildings or construction developments.