Employees who survived layoffs the past several months at for-profit educator Education Management Corporation got some mixed news this week: The Pittsburgh-based company hopes to avoid further layoffs ... but is freezing wages in order to do so.
Word of the wage freeze came down Tuesday, in an email sent on behalf of EDMC management. The email, sent to City Paper from multiple sources, says the management committee "made the decision to suspend merit pay increases for fiscal year 2013" which starts July 1 of this year and ends June 30, 2013. (Employees will still have annual employee evaluations.)
The wage freeze, the email says, is happening "only after carefully reviewing and implementing a number of other measures to ensure that we are operating as efficiently as possible." The email says the company "understands the news is disappointing to us all," but hopes "most will understand that it is necessary in order to preserve the long-term strength and health of our company."
EDMC's health has been beset by numerous problems. Enrollment has lagged, and the company is fighting a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit over the company's student recruiting practices. If EDMC loses the case, it might have to repay billions of dollars in federal financial aid given to its students. EDMC is also contending with legislation being pushing by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, to limit the amount that for-profit educators can earn from veterans via the G.I. Bill.
Such problems seem to be taking a toll. Despite a stock buyback and hundreds of layoffs in January and after, EDMC's stock has fallen from $30 at the beginning of the year, to around $6.50 as of this morning.
"An important part of maintaining this commitment in the current economic environment is ensuring that the cost of education for our students remains manageable," the email reads. "In order to accomplish that goal, we're working to keep tuition as close to current levels as possible.
"In the past year we have also taken a number of steps to eliminate as much expense as possible across the company ... to minimize actions that further reduce our employee base. We will continue those efforts in the coming fiscal year."
While it appears the wage freeze will be system-wide, the e-mail did not indicate whether top executives and board members -- many of whom are tied to Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs -- will be sharing the pain. (Last year CEO Todd Nelson, for example, received a base salary of $630,000 and stock-option bonuses worth $11.5 million.) The company will report details of its executive compensation in its annual report, due at the end of August.
I love Mel Packer!