The Early Exit Program (EEP), one of several measures Cal Poly Pomona is taking to eliminate a $20 million budget gap this fiscal year (FY 20-21), could save the university an estimated $7 million, according to preliminary estimates.
The EEP—which opened Oct. 5 and expanded eligibility Dec. 12—provided state-side employees an opportunity to voluntarily separate through a severance package and separation agreements. The program was initiated in response to a COVID-19-prompted $299 million budget decrease to the California State University System for FY 20-21, compared to FY 19-20.
A total of 91 university employees have agreed to the voluntary separation so far: 70 staff (of 1,070 total staff), 15 in management (of 171 total management) and six faculty (of 1,452 total faculty). (See graphics below).
The program officially closed on Jan. 31 with final employee departures no later than Feb. 28. Final figures on total participants and projected savings will be available in April.
In a Feb. 1 message to the campus community, University President Soraya M. Coley noted the importance of the EEP in Cal Poly Pomona’s efforts to address budget shortfalls.
“While this program represents a critical component of our budget response, it also means that we are losing a host of experienced and talented staff,” she wrote. “To all of those finishing their time as Cal Poly Pomona employees, I want to express the gratitude of our entire campus community for sharing your time, expertise and effort. You are a part of a legacy more than eight decades old, and I hope you always take great pride in being part of the Cal Poly Pomona family.
Why We Offered the EEP
With the university making every effort to keep its permanent personnel in place, the EEP will help Cal Poly Pomona in its push to avert layoffs and furloughs. The program also is one of the university’s measured approaches to ensuring that it has savings not only in the current fiscal year, but also in future years, as California continues to face tough economic times prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
How We Are Reimagining Work in the Wake of the EEP
Using the departure of EEP participants as an opportunity to innovate, Cal Poly Pomona is reimagining work to increase efficiency without putting more responsibilities on employees who remain. The university will use a percentage of the savings from the EEP for this effort, as well as for upskilling and reorganizing for efficiency.
Ongoing efforts from Employee and Organizational Development and Advancement (EODA) include consulting with HEERA managers and assisting them with thinking through how they can adapt to the changes the EEP imposes strategically and innovatively, said Kimberly Allain, associate vice president of EODA.
The aim is to provide training on the concepts of change and tools HEERA managers can use to help their teams navigate through the psychological aspects involved in big shifts. One training exercise, called “Stop, Start, Continue” involves department teams re-evaluating what they do now and what they could do differently with fewer employees.
“The training gives leaders the tools to navigate the separation and the impacts it might cause, and gives team members an opportunity to be heard and to get assistance navigating some of the challenges and emotions staff and faculty might be experiencing who remain at CPP,” said Michelle Elrod, director of EODA.
What Gov. Newsom’s Proposed 2021-22 Budget Means for CPP
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his 2021-22 proposed budget in January, which included $144.5 million in recurring funding for the CSU, of which $30 million would go to support Graduation Initiative 2025, $15 million for the campuses’ highest priorities and another $15 million for basic needs initiatives. The proposal also called for $225 million in one-time funding for the CSU, with $175 million of that slated for academic facilities and infrastructure.
The governor’s proposed budget enables Cal Poly Pomona to begin making assumptions related to any potential funds, but the university cannot make any final decisions based on those figures, said Joe Simoneschi, associate vice president of finance and administrative services and interim chief financial officer.
In May, the governor releases a revised budget, which will allow Cal Poly Pomona to update its figures related to potential resources and make more concrete fiscal plans, Simoneschi said. The state Legislature votes on the budget in June and sends it to the governor to sign. It takes effect July 1.
After the governor’s proposed budget was released, CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro announced that there would be no increase in tuition for the 2021-22 academic year. Castro also indicated that as long as proposed state and federal support comes through, the system would not pursue an employee furlough program, President Coley wrote in a message to campus.
How Federal Funding Helps Support Programs and Students
Cal Poly Pomona is expected to receive $48.6 million in student and institutional aid authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), signed into law in December.
The institutional portion of the funding totals about $33.2 million and is to be used for technology costs associated with the transition to virtual instruction— including purchasing laptops and hotspots—and faculty trainings. Cal Poly Pomona plans to use the funds for personal protective equipment for safety measures, virtual instruction, professional development for faculty and staff training, payroll, and deferring expenses related to COVID-19.
The student aid portion funds financial aid grants.
How Advocacy Meets Action
Cal Poly Pomona also is making its budget needs known to California lawmakers.
A delegation representing the campus participated in CSU Advocacy Week Feb. 2-11. The delegation met with all six state legislators whose districts include Cal Poly Pomona regarding the university’s budget requests for fiscal year 2021-22.
In addition to her meetings with the delegation members and the state lawmakers, University President Soraya M. Coley joined the CSU Chancellor’s Office in meetings with the California Legislative Black Caucus and the California Women’s Caucus.
These efforts helped produce an agreement, announced Feb. 17 by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Senate and Assembly leaders, to fully restore the $299 million reduction from the CSU’s base FY 20-21 budget, to take effect on July 1, 2021.