Chancellor estimates KU will lose tens of millions of dollars from COVID-19 crisis
photo by: Carter Gaskins
The University of Kansas expects to suffer losses in the range of tens of millions of dollars because of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced its campuses to abruptly switch to online learning and sent all but 500 students home for the semester.
Chancellor Douglas Girod made the grim prediction Thursday during a virtual town hall update on the university’s operations. Those losses, he said, come from a number of revenue streams that have been affected by the pandemic, including housing and dining costs, events and research dollars.
KU leaders are still working to understand the full implications of the economic challenges they’ll be facing, he said. In the meantime, they are working with both state and federal officials to determine what relief will be available for higher education institutions.
“We know the state revenues are going to be very challenged in the months ahead,” Girod said.
The operating budget Kansas lawmakers passed in March ended up being “fairly favorable” to KU, Girod said, and fully funded the university at the level it received during the last academic year, plus “a little bit.”
But that won’t be nearly enough to offset the losses that will impact the university.
Federal relief for higher education institutions has also been slow to arrive. Congress so far has passed three economic stimulus and relief packages, only one of which had funding for colleges and universities. That bill doled out $14 billion for higher education — far less than officials say was needed.
Most of that money, Girod said, was rightly allocated to help students in the short term, and universities hope to see more relief in coming stimulus packages. He said KU will be “heavily advocating” for serious assistance in the next stimulus bill.
“I would just reiterate that this is obviously a challenge and a crisis for KU, but it really is for everybody,” Girod said. “Every higher ed institution in the country is dealing with this. Every community is dealing with this, and every state and every country is dealing with this right now.”
Part of the losses KU will suffer will come from refunds for unused housing, dining and parking services that students purchase at the beginning of the academic year. Girod and other leaders who spoke during the town hall said information on those refunds should be available Friday.
“We’re certainly going to get through this together,” Girod said. “We will be a different university on the other side of this, but we’ll be a stronger university on the other side of this.”
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