The University of Delaware will try to slow its financial losses in the spring by making sure the dorms are 50 percent filled and also by offering more in-person classes to draw students to campus.
In a town hall meeting with the UD community Thursday afternoon, President Dennis Assanis broke down how exactly the school had accrued an estimated $228 million in losses, $60 million of which is a result of the school de-densifying the campus for fall semester.
The school plans to cut some of this deficit by reducing the costs of the academic sections of school’s budget by 15% and nonacademic section of the budget by 25-35%. It’s already dipped into its $1 billion-plus endowment to help.
The expected deficit is a quarter of the university’s $1 billion budget for the 20-21 school year. Of that, more than 60 percent is salaries and benefits, spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett said last week.
Other ways the school plans to reduce this year’s deficit is by enacting a voluntary retirement incentive program, creating voluntary schedule reductions, and making personnel reductions in time and workforce.
Some routes the school is also looking at include unpaid leave, temporary reductions in retirement contributions, and organizational restructuring.
“I don’t want any students to think that the University of Delaware is in trouble,” Assanis said. “We’re in trouble today as every other university in the United States today, but we’re going to have a very bright future.”
The deficit was created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Assanis said.
Assanis said the university wants to open campus up as much as possible for the 2020 spring semester.
The school doesn’t want to lose another $60 million like it did for fall semester when students were not paying for rooms, meals, fees and classes.
Assanis said he hoped to have the residence halls on campus at 50% capacity in spring. This fall, those halls were only 20 percent full, with around 1,300 students moving in. In addition to tuition and fee loss, the university had increased costs of COVID-19 education, precautions and quarantine space.
“We’re going to make a final decision soon,” said Assanis.
The school will prioritize moving in incoming freshman students and students in their senior year
“We are hoping and planning nonstop to increase the campus density,” Assanis said.
The focus on moving freshmen onto campus is partly because the school wants more freshmen to enroll because it missed its freshman enrollment goal by 17%.
UD wants more seniors on campus is to give them a taste of the campus that last spring’s seniors didn’t get because the campus was closed down in March and students were sent home.
“We worked with the provost and the deans to maximize the face-to-face experience of the returning student, consistent with the safety guidelines,” Assanis said.
The university plans to have students who move in next semester study both in class and online.
The school also is considering making schedule changes for the semester to make bring students back.
“The only thing we’ve already decided to cancel is the study abroad,” Assanis said.
In total, the university will draw down more than 10 percent of the value of its more than $1 billion endowment to cope with this crisis.
Gov John Carney said during his Tuesday press conference that the university had received 10s of millions of dollars from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.
Earlier this year the school announced that it was offering free classes in the winter session for students who took a smaller amount of credit hours this fall semester as a result of the online classes.
On Wednesday Assanis said that would cost the school $5 million dollars. He asked the faculty to consider teaching those courses to lessen the financial strain it would put on the school because they are not paid by class.
“We are all together in this, and we need to help each other, “Assanis said. “Those who can teach more, step up and do it … If just a few more faculty did one more course this one time in their life, it wouldn’t cost us anything. Think how many jobs it would protect. “