Colleges dealing with pressures mounting from coronavirus

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The impacts of the coronavirus on the budget of Kentucky’s postsecondary institutions was the topic of a legislative committee meeting on Wednesday.


“These past several months have been the most challenging of our professional careers,” Murray State University President Robert Jackson told the General Assembly’s Budget Review Subcommittee on Education.


“On January 1, if you would have asked university presidents about our top 100 concerns, global pandemic would not have made the list,” Jackson, a former state senator himself, told the panel.


He said the pandemic has affected every part of campus and caused tremendous financial pressures on each school.  In the case of Murray State, that amounted to around $7.8 million and a two-year decline of $14.5 million. 


According to Jackson, this year’s losses included having to refund $4.5 million in housing and dining revenue, as well as a loss in income from on campus events and even from the NCAA basketball tournament.


Some of the adjustments Murray had to make to the budget included a hiring freeze, elimination of positions, no overtime or cost of living adjustments for employees and reviewing contracts in every area of the university.


One bright spot, Jackson testified, “Enrollment for our summer term, which is almost upon us, is up nearly 18.5 percent.”


He added, without $3.1 million in federal CARES Act money, their decline would have been over $10 million.


Dr. Aaron Thompson, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, told the committee it was a similar story at all of Kentucky’s public universities and the community college system.


Collectively, he said the schools had nearly $76 million in COVID-19 related costs, and lost revenue of almost $69 million, resulting in a total impact of around $145 million.


Despite those staggering figures, Thompson said, “Nationally, we’re looking better than many other states.”


While preferring that face-to-face instruction returns during the fall semester, Thompson acknowledged that they will have to be prepared to continue online classes or some form of hybrid teaching.


Thompson also noted the eight public universities are continuing to discuss with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the recent decision that international students may lose their student visas if their colleges go to online instruction, noting, “Some universities are suing ICE, including Harvard and MIT,” which was announced on Wednesday.

      

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