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UW Trustees Approve Faculty Separation Incentive Program Expansion

March 23, 2017

Up to 45 University of Wyoming faculty members could leave the university at the end of the current academic year as part of a previously approved plan to reduce UW’s budget in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The UW Board of Trustees today (Thursday) approved a change to the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) for longtime faculty members, lifting the previous cap on the program to allow a maximum annual net savings of $4.45 million.

Under the plan approved by the board, an estimated 22 of the vacated faculty positions -- including three key administrative positions -- will be refilled. An estimated 23 positions will be eliminated.

“This separation incentive is a prudent move by the university during a time of declining revenues. We appreciate those who are voluntarily separating to allow us to strategically meet our reduction target,” Provost Kate Miller says. “We will make sure that key faculty positions are refilled so that there is minimal impact on our instructional capacity, and to assure that our students continue to receive an excellent education.”

The VSIP is part of approximately $10 million in permanent reductions and internal reallocations previously approved by the Board of Trustees for FY 2018. That’s on top of a $19.3 million reduction implemented in the current fiscal year.

A previous retirement and separation incentive implemented in FY 2017 resulted in the departure of about 50 employees, but fewer than 10 of them were faculty members -- the others were staff members. The VSIP in FY 2018 was targeted specifically at academic personnel on a tenure track or extended-term appointment who will have worked at UW for at least 20 years as of Aug. 31, 2017 (Aug. 22 for academic-year employees).

Eligible employees with academic-year appointments approved for the VSIP will receive one-time payments of their nine-month budgeted salaries as of Sept. 1, 2016, not to exceed $150,000 each. For eligible employees who have fiscal-year appointments, the one-time payment will consist of 9/12ths of their budgeted salaries, not to exceed $150,000 each. All payments are subject to deductions required for taxes and will include payments for accrued and unused vacation and sick leave, depending on the option the employee chooses.

As approved by the board in November, the VSIP was capped at $5 million in one-time, up-front expenditures, with a goal of $4 million in annual savings. Some $2 million of that savings was to go toward the FY 2018 budget reduction, with the other $2 million going back to the Office of Academic Affairs for strategic faculty hires.

The board’s action this week lifted the $5 million cap to allow as many as 45 eligible faculty members who applied for the VSIP to participate in it, which would increase the one-time, up-front expenditure to about $7.3 million. That would produce annual, ongoing savings of about $6.45 million. After the $2 million permanent reduction is applied, the annual net budget savings would be $4.45 million.

If the $5 million cap had been maintained, about 14 fewer positions would have been included, and the annual net budget savings would have been about $2.6 million.

“The VSIP has been highly successful, exceeding the goal of $4 million in savings,” Provost Kate Miller says. “The board’s action in lifting the cap allows for maximal participation and savings, which will provide long-term benefit and flexibility for the university. And this will not hinder any student’s ability to complete his or her degree during the 2017-18 academic year.”

Eligible faculty members who applied for the VSIP will be notified of their acceptance early next week.

The budget reductions are a result of a drop in the university’s state block grant, driven by Wyoming’s economic downturn and loss of state government revenue. In the biennium that began July 1, UW has lost $41 million in state funding. An additional $500,000 annual reduction was imposed by the 2017 Legislature.

The reductions implemented for the current fiscal year -- to be carried through the second year of the biennium and beyond -- were achieved largely through the elimination of 102 vacant positions ($6 million), hiring fewer part-time and adjunct instructors ($2.7 million) and across-the-board cuts ($7 million). The first retirement and separation incentive, which produced about 50 additional staff and faculty vacancies, is expected to save a total of $7 million over the biennium.

The FY 2018 cuts also include elimination of about 15 faculty and staff positions that were vacated after the FY 2017 reductions were approved, saving an estimated $750,000.

A total of just under $6 million is being cut through allocations to units across campus: Academic Affairs ($2.05 million), the Division of Administration ($1.31 million), the Department of Athletics ($1 million), Information Technology ($500,000), the Division of Student Affairs ($300,000), the Office of General Counsel ($215,000), the President’s Office ($191,340), the UW Foundation ($175,000), the Office of Research and Economic Development ($80,532), and the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs ($100,000).

The Academic Affairs reduction breaks down to $475,000 for the College of Arts and Sciences, $350,000 for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, $150,000 for the College of Business, $110,000 for the College of Education, $125,000 for the College of Engineering and Applied Science, $150,000 for the College of Health Sciences, $75,000 for the College of Law, $500,000 for the Outreach School and $110,000 for UW Libraries.

The FY 2018 plan also includes a projected $1.8 million in savings on UW operational expenses based upon recommendations from Huron Consulting Group, which conducted a comprehensive review of UW’s administrative functions. That includes $630,000 from consolidation of campus information technology functions; $335,000 in UW’s procurement operations; and $275,000 from changes in Student Health Service staffing.

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