Public universities have begun furloughing employees in an effort to reduce costs, and law schools aren’t exempt from the unpaid leave policies. For example, Arizona State University has implemented a universitywide furlough program that applies to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The move is expected to save the university about $24 million at a time when the Arizona lawmakers are looking at significant cuts to state university funding.

Arizona State is just one school where employees will have a little extra free time on their hands in the coming months. Several other schools have announced furloughs, and a growing number of university officials from across the country say they are looking at requiring employees to take unpaid leave. In Arizona State’s case, deans are required to take 15 days of unpaid leave before July, faculty must take 12 unpaid days, and all other employees have to take 10 days. The university will remain open, and employees are encouraged to stagger their days off to help limit the impact of vacancies.

A statement released by Arizona State President Michael Crow said the school was implementing the furlough because of a “severe reduction in state funding.” Arizona State’s furlough program is similar to one at the University of Maryland, under which employees must take up to five days of unpaid leave prior to June. Employees who make $90,000 or more must take the maximum five days, while that time is shorter for workers who make less. The program started in February and extends though the end of the current semester. The furlough is intended to help stave off layoffs.

“It’s had absolutely no impact on students,” said Karen Rothenberg, dean of the University of Maryland School of Law. “Faculty aren’t in the classroom eight hours a day, five days a week. The furlough is flexible, and staff and faculty can take the time when it works.”

Rothenberg noted that no classes are being cancelled as a result of the furlough, and faculty office hours won’t be cut back either. She said she expects that many faculty members will opt to work their regular schedule, even if they are being paid for fewer hours.

“Employees have been very supportive,” Rothenberg said. “It’s been incredibly gratifying that the academic community has been so positive about the plan.”

Utah State University, which doesn’t have a law school, is also requiring employees to take unpaid leave for five days over spring break, which also was prompted by cuts in state funding.

Other universities are considering similar furlough programs.

The president of the University of Missouri system, which maintains laws schools in Columbia and Kansas City, is considering furloughs and salary freezes. The University of Maine system, which includes the University of Maine School of Law, is in the process of finalizing a furlough program that would require certain workers to take two unpaid days prior to June 30. Faculty would be exempt from the furlough. The president of the University of North Carolina said last month that he expects to seek legislation to furlough university employees.

California has received much attention for its furlough program, which went into effect this month and is slated to continue through June 2010. In order to reduce state spending, many state workers must take off two unpaid days a month. The program doesn’t apply to the state’s public universities or public safety workers, but public universities in California face mounting financial pressures as the state looks to slash higher education spending.

The University of California Hastings College of the Law announced in December that it would take numerous steps to cut spending, in anticipation of reduced state funding. That included canceling cost-of-living raises and merit raises for administrators and slower hiring. Those types of budget cuts are playing out at law schools across the country.

In an e-mail to students this week, Brooklyn Law School Dean Joan G. Wexler announced that the school is freezing salaries for “almost all administrators, faculty, and staff in the coming year.” That move is expected to help the school avoid unusually high tuition increases for the next academic year, Wexler wrote.

The president of the University of Iowa, home to the University of Iowa College of Law, has also warned faculty to prepare for pay freezes.