In a letter to the University of Delaware community, school president Dennis Assanis said the coronavirus pandemic had created an “unforeseen” $65 million impact on the school’s budget that would need to be filled by spending cuts.
Assanis said that UD had been able to contain the financial damage to $50 million “through deliberate cost-mitigation strategies and a $6 million allocation from federal stimulus funds under the CARES Act to offset institutional losses.”
Key drivers of the budget impact include increased costs associated with the school-wide move to online learning and operations, reduced revenue from international student tuition due to travel restrictions, refunds to students for a prorated portion of housing, dining and other fees, parking refunds, canceled events and athletic programs, and hotel and conference operations.
The school also said the budget was shouldering wages for temporary and part-time staff and students in an effort to enable continuity of pay through May 31.
The UD president announced a slate of “efficiency measures” to manage finances “which are effective immediately and will remain in place until further notice.” These include:
Hiring Freeze – As communicated by UD Human Resources on April 14, a hiring freeze is in place on all current and future academic and non-academic searches.
Capital Projects – All campus projects already under construction will continue, including the Ammon Pinizzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center, Whitney Athletics Center, Worrilow Hall, and Warner Hall. Existing capital projects in the planning and design phases will be reevaluated to determine whether they should proceed or be deferred. No new capital projects will be approved. Exceptions will be made for projects funded primarily through external funds that also support strategic initiatives, including the “FinTech” building on STAR Campus. Deferred maintenance spending will be reduced to an amount necessary only to maintain operations.
Travel Ban – All University travel is currently suspended to reduce the spread of COVID-19. When safe travel can resume, only essential travel will be permitted.
Discretionary Spending – All expenditures that are not critical to University operations are suspended immediately. This includes food/meals, events, memberships, hiring of outside consultants, contracts, and purchase of equipment, among other categories.
Staff Realignment – All departments have been asked to evaluate work capacity among staff to ensure efficient use of resources. As we strive to maintain our current workforce, our goal is to identify solutions for sustained application of talent where possible to optimize current resources. Managers should contact Human Resources to explore opportunities for potential staff repurposing and/or job sharing in their department or unit as appropriate.
Summer Programs – Assanis also stated, “in the immediate term, all in-person summer activities, programs and conferences that were slated to begin prior to August 1 are canceled or will be converted to online offerings; summer classes will continue via distance learning.”
These include, but are not limited to summer camps, conferences, high school graduation ceremonies and meetings.
As for next fall, Assanis said the school remained “cautiously optimistic” that students could return to campus in the fall. He said a task force will monitor the situation and evaluate contingency plans if that is not possible for the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year.