By Julie Chen

With our move into the second half of the semester, I wanted to reach out to provide you a financial update.

As we built this year’s budget, it quickly became clear we faced a daunting financial challenge.

Smaller junior and senior pandemic-era enrollments, the end of one-time pandemic federal dollars, larger-than-expected wage and benefit increases and inflation collectively created a $37 million gap.

To reduce that shortfall, we focused first on non-personnel solutions. We reduced operating budgets by 15%, deferred spending where possible and used discretionary funds from Advancement and our growing research enterprise to help fund millions in student financial aid and other operating expenses.

We have eliminated or frozen nearly 60 positions, backfilling only where critical. I am grateful to the 23 people who participated in the voluntary separation incentive program, as well as to members of the university’s senior leadership, who will receive smaller salary adjustments than unionized employees.

At each step along the way, we have made it a priority to keep you updated and provide additional details.

We have made tremendous progress and greatly decreased the number of necessary layoffs compared to our initial estimates. But we were not able to find savings to eliminate layoffs entirely.

This week, we began difficult conversations with 23 members of the UMass Lowell community, informing them that they will be laid off from their positions.

Each of these individuals has been a vital part of this university and all have made important contributions to the success of UMass Lowell and our students. And I know that understanding the budget realities doesn’t make this decision easier or lessen the impact to our valued friends and colleagues receiving this news.

I also want to be clear that today’s difficulties don’t represent our future.

In the next two years, our enrollments will continue to grow. We are already successfully recruiting larger classes to replace the smaller numbers of 2024 and 2025 graduates. Our research growth continues to accelerate, powered by outstanding faculty, staff and students.

The reality of UMass Lowell’s positive outlook can become foggy on difficult days like today, but the choices we are making now are positioning us as a top public university in New England for students looking to advance their careers, a fact already recognized by the Wall Street Journal.

As we look to the 2028 Strategic Plan, we remain on a course to help transform the City of Lowell, power economic development across the Merrimack Valley, strengthen our role as a welcoming, inclusive campus, discover new knowledge with national partners and provide our students with a hands-on education to become leaders in their careers.

As we face this challenging moment together, thank you for all you do for UMass Lowell, our students and each other.