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Starting July 1, the University of Michigan will end its year-long hiring freeze and employees will be once again eligible for a merit raise program, after the University halted both programs last April in response to lost revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board of Regents will vote on reinstating these programs at their June meeting.

At the University’s weekly COVID-19 briefing on Feb. 26, Provost Susan M. Collins said the University’s financial situation is strong despite being dependent on how much money the state of Michigan allocates it in 2022. Last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that the state budget would offer a 2% increase for Michigan’s public universities relative to the previous fiscal year.

“2021 total application volume is actually up about 26 percent compared to 2020,” Collins said. “Our current enrollment remains steady. The financial position of the University of Michigan has also stabilized.”

But Collins said the University’s finances will remain constrained as units such as University Housing and Michigan Athletics continue to suffer from lost revenue. Despite that, she said, the University is prioritizing efforts to support faculty and staff affected by the pandemic.

Collins also said a merit increase program for faculty will be implemented for the upcoming fiscal year after the 2020 program was scrapped due to the pandemic.

William McAllister, executive manager for transportation and waste management, told The Michigan Daily that the merit increase program reaffirmed his confidence in the University’s financial situation.

“To hear Provost Collins mention that there’s going to be some sort of modest merit increase… further solidified the feelings I had about (the University’s financial position),” McAllister said. “It just shows what we did as employees… (that) made a huge difference financially for the University, and I think a lot of people look at this as, ‘hey, we did our part,’ and now the University is going to do their part by reinstating the merit program.”

In an email to Michigan Medicine staff published in the University Record, Marschall Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs, said the hospital would reinstate several of its own benefits programs, including paid time off, merit and competitive pay raises, tuition reimbursement and departmental professional development programs. Michigan Medicine restarted its retirement match on Jan. 1.

“You have played a critical role in helping Michigan Medicine return to routine operations and a stable and positive financial outlook for the current fiscal year,” Runge wrote to hospital employees. “Thank you for your ongoing commitment to our mission of advancing care for Michigan and the world, especially during the peaks and valleys of COVID-19.”

In the last year, McAllister said he has learned how to consolidate positions and be more efficient with existing workers due to the hiring freeze. For example, workers moved between different divisions in transportation to adjust to changing workloads, lots of work went remote and Parking shifted the way it did winter maintenance to better cope with the workers it lost. 

Even so, he said the demands of a possible in-person semester with faculty, staff and students on campus in the fall will require increased staffing, particularly for frontline workers. Being able to hire again this upcoming July will allow him to deliver better service when campus begins to return to pre-pandemic conditions, McAllister said.

“We haven’t seen the amount of work that we typically have when the University’s up and running at full speed… and I don’t think it’s going to come back by July 1,” McAllister said. “But I do think (the end of the hiring freeze) gives me and others the flexibility when things do get to even more of a normal state…  to have the ability to make business cases to fill those positions because the work has returned.”

University President Mark Schlissel said Tuesday in an interview with The Daily he hopes a more detailed plan for the Fall 2021 semester will be released in mid-March. The University had previously announced its optimism for a more normal Fall 2021 semester mid-February.

Daily Staff Reporter Dominic Coletti can be reached at dcoletti@umich.edu.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

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