The University of Delaware has given 50,000 COVID-19 tests to workers and students, President Dennis Assanis said Thursday during a town hall event focused on the school’s future.
The university’s budget woes, the fall semester plans and graduation were all on the agenda.
Among other things, Assanis said the school plans to have 95% of all classes meeting in person for the fall semester, students will be allowed to have roommates and a full athletic schedule is planned.
The university’s budget is looking much better than it did in September when Assanis announced the school was taking $100 million out of its endowment to cope with what it expected to be a $250 million deficit.
Thursday, he said the school’s currently operating gap is $65 million, thanks largely to a lot of COVID-19 help. The school also saved $135 million through budget cuts, which included reduced pay roll and work force.
CARES act funding and a state higher education emergency relief fund added about $60 million to UD’s coffers.
“To be frank, if we hadn’t implemented measures we did,” Assanis said, “the case we made for support would not have been as compelling.”
The university also received $21 million from the recent stimulus bill intended to support the students. With the first $6 million, the university will be sending $250 each to undergraduate students that filled out a FAFSA, and every graduate student.
“In many cases, those with demonstrated financial need will receive considerably more,” he said.
Because finances look more in hand, UD will lift its 5% salary reduction for non-union staff starting March 31 and pay them back the sum that they lost by April 15.
“We’re still facing a lot of economic headwinds as the nation emerges from the pandemic,” Assanis said. “So, for the next few years we’ll continue to feel, without a doubt, the effects of the economic recovery on our budget. But as a university we will continue to boldly advance and achieve our mission.”
Assanis thanked UD staff and students for their ability to adapt and overcome the troubles of the pandemic.
“I’m so impressed with all of you,” he said. “The UD community demonstrated its true character during the past year. You stepped up; to help each other, to protect yourselves.”
He said all UD staff members are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, including student workers such as teaching assistants and residential assistants.
The vaccination of staff and students is part of the university’s goal to have a completely normal fall 2021 semester, Assanis said.
The exception to UD’s plays for mostly in-person fall classes is large classes held in lecture halls where it is difficult to socially distance, under currect COVID-19 safety guidelines. It’s possible that could be changed by the time fall classes start.
“Next fall will be a normal campus experience,” Assanis said.
The university plans to give sophomores (current freshman) housing priority for the 2021 fall semester because the majority of this class has not yet stepped foot on the Newark campus.
Assanis also announced a plan to hold in-person graduation for the class of 2021 and the class of 2020 now set for the last weekend in May. Graduates will be split, with half of the 2021 class graduating on that Friday, half of the 2021 class graduating that Saturday and the class of 2020 graduating on Sunday.
Graduates will be allowed to bring two guests.
Assanis noted the plan has not been approved by the state and is subject to change.