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Virus costing higher education

The financial impact of the global coronavirus pandemic is being felt in various degrees at regional universities and colleges as some institutions reduce employees and budgets, issue refunds to students and defer capital improvements.

Penn State furloughed about 2,000 employees throughout its system, while Juniata College furloughed 52 employees from across all departments, school officials said. At Saint Francis University and Mount Aloysius College, both in Cambria County, faculty and staff are intact.

“Everyone is still being paid,” said Erin McCloskey, assistant vice president of relationships and recruiting at SFU. “We’ve made a strong commitment to sustain payroll.”

In Cresson, Mount Aloysius spokesman Sam Wagner said, “we are keeping our staff and faculty whole until at least the end of the semester.”

Both Juniata and Saint Francis contract with Parkhurst Dining Services to operate their dining halls, which have closed. School officials deferred comments about those personnel to Parkhurst officials who couldn’t be reached for comment.

Penn State University officials said coronavirus-associated losses totaled $100 million since March with an additional loss of $160 million projected, according to a statement from President Eric Barron.

These losses prompted the university to pay idled workers 50% of their salary from May 4 to June 30 — the close of the current fiscal year. Most are employees in auxiliary units such as hotels and conference centers and the Bryce Jordan Center and would be eligible for unemployment and stimulus support.

“There are too many uncertainties at this time to make workforce projections after June 30, but we will continue to assess circumstances and provide updates regarding whether further steps are necessary,” Barron said.

Juniata College officials said its furloughed employees represent all departments at the Huntingdon County college that employs about 500 people.

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