UND could lose up to $11 million in revenue during current academic year, UND President Joshua Wynne says
UND could lose up to $11 million in revenue during the current academic year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, interim UND President Joshua Wynne told faculty and staff during a video meeting Tuesday, April 21.
The stark outlook has prompted Wynne to advise staff to expect changes while seeking ways to “limit expenses and preserve cash.”
“So we need to be proactive rather than reactive about that, so that we continue to properly position UND not only now, but also in the future,” Wynne said.
Campus leaders – Wynne, incoming UND President Andrew Armacost, Provost Tom DiLorenzo and others – spent time Tuesday answering questions from UND faculty and staff about the ongoing financial situation of the university. A video recording and a transcript of the meeting were posted on the university’s UND Today blog late Tuesday.
Last week, the university announced it will be implementing a “reduction in effort.” A majority of non-faculty staff will see a substantial reduction in hours in the coming weeks, Wynne said. In most cases, Wynne said staff may see work hours reduced to zero, but they will remain employed by the university and will be able to keep their health insurance and other benefits. Affected staff will be eligible to collect unemployment benefits, as well as additional dollars through the federal CARES Act.
Wynne told the Herald last week that the university has been dealing with a “significant decrement in revenue” in recent weeks, including impacts of refunds to students and a halt to flight hours.
The university has already enacted a hiring “chill,” meaning it is analyzing each open position and attempting to decide if the position is essential to the university’s mission.
Wynne said Tuesday that the university also is “reexamining projects and expenditures” through its request-for-proposal process, in addition to asking all units to “look at what they can do to limit expenses and preserve cash.”
“So by doing these things and others, we will go a long way toward addressing our short-term issues for this academic year as we prepare for the still uncertain future that will start for the next academic year,” Wynne said.
It’s unclear what the next semester will look like for UND, along with other institutions in the North Dakota University System, higher education leaders in the state have noted.
Wynne noted during Tuesday’s forum that the “new normal” for colleges could be “periods of on-campus followed by periods where there is less on-campus experience.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be all or none,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s going to be business as usual for the fall semester, but I also don’t expect it to be entirely online. I think the most reasonable expectation is going to be a blend of both.”
Merit pay increases, which are legislatively mandated, will still be appropriated currently. The 2.5% increase that the Legislature deemed appropriate during the last legislative session applies to appropriated salaries and is part of state law, Wynne said.
“So at this point, barring some change to the law, UND and the other institutions in the (North Dakota University System) will be giving merit increases,” he said.
The merit pay is based on annual evaluations.
In response to a question asked about whether there could be cuts to existing programs on campus, incoming interim Provost Debbie Storrs noted that the university was already grappling with demographic changes in recent years. She said that, at present, academic deans are looking at potential enrollments and “considering how best to manage that anticipated reduction in enrollments and in revenue.”
“So, this includes a range of different options, including increasing teaching loads as well as looking at which programs we might not want to accept students into because of enrollment issues and a reduction in revenue,” she said. “It’s the broad spectrum that the deans are looking at.”
Also announced Tuesday, North Dakota colleges and universities soon will be receiving a second wave of CARES Act dollars. The additional funds can be used to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity and train faculty and staff to operate in a remote learning environment so that at any moment institutions can pivot quickly, according to a press release from Sen. Kevin Cramer’s office.
In total, UND will receive around $5.4 million in CARES Act funding, half of which is required to go to students in some form.
Jed Shivers, vice president for finance and operations at UND, said the CARES Act dollars will be a benefit to UND as it deals with the financial challenges of the pandemic.
“From our perspective, we can’t guarantee zero harm, but I think it’s a much better place for us to be in with the availability of these benefits than otherwise,” Shivers said.