Tough times for one of Durham's largest employers

DURHAM It takes about $2 billion to operate a powerhouse university like Duke. But the recession has the school offering retirement incentives to about 700 workers over the age of 50 with more than 10 years on the job.

Longtime housekeeper Ronald Nance says he is afraid he may be one of them.

"A lot of people are talking about it though ... coworkers and stuff, some of them worrying, some of them scared, some of them said they might take it up," Duke employee Ronald Nance said.

The university is trying to make up for $125 million shortfall, a salary and hiring freeze is also in effect.

"It's important not to sugar coat the reality of what we have here," Kyle Cavanaugh Duke Human Resources said. "In comparison to most of our other peer institution, we're in good shape but that's not to say this isn't a very serious situation."

The goal is to keep Duke competitive at a time when private donations are down and research dollars are spread thin.

"Teaching, research, patient care, those are the combined focal points and the quality of the education has to be protected as well," Resources said.

Faculty and most staff positions are unaffected by Duke's tight budget, but that doesn't mean there isn't concern for the future.

"As a staff member, I feel pretty comfortable right now it doesn't mean that tomorrow won't be a different day any of us could lose our jobs that quickly," Duke employee August Burns said.

The university says it can't rule out the possibility of layoffs.

For now, administrators are taking a wait and see approach, hoping by fall the economy will rebound and cutbacks will have made a difference.

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