Boston University President Robert Brown today told professors and staffers that uncertainties and new expenses caused by Covid-19 are forcing the school to stop contributions towards their retirement - in addition to instituting a previously announced salary freeze.
Brown wrote that the end of retirement payments, which goes into effect July 1, should save BU some $84 million in the coming school year - but even that wont be enough:
Even with the salary and retirement plan contribution freezes, and other savings we have already identified, we anticipate a total budget shortfall of between $70 million and $150 million, based on our estimates of how many students will enroll this fall. We have asked managers to propose reductions that will allow us to balance the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, and this is going to require that we make some very hard decisions.
Brown said that the school has seen good news in enrollment - the number of accepted freshmen sending in deposits has exceeded university goals and that graduate enrollment is showing strong numbers as well. But, he continued:
We do not know, for example, if the pandemic’s trajectory over the summer will end up giving students greater confidence or elevate their anxiety about attending a residential program when it is time to make a final decision in August. Nor is it clear how many students will have to postpone their education because of the economic dislocation that they and their parents are experiencing. And we simply do not know how easy or difficult it will be for our international students to get to Boston in September because of either travel restrictions or the possible unavailability of visas.
Even if all the students do continue with BU, keeping them safe - and enrolled - in a Covid-19 world could prove expensive, he wrote:
For the coming fiscal year, there are a number of sources of revenue that will either be reduced or eliminated entirely, including those from events, conferences, and some of our academic programs that will necessarily be shuttered for the foreseeable future. We also are looking at significant new expenses associated with our plans to reopen our campuses and resume residential operations. Those plans, whether for classroom, research, residential, or community-building elements of the University, have to measure up to the highest possible public health and safety standards. This is both necessary and costly to implement. We must also plan for an increased need for financial aid as the recession caused by the pandemic deepens.
Brown also laid out a four-phase strategy to re-opening the school's campuses, starting with the reopening of research and clinical facilities.
Phase 2, which we hope will start later in the summer, will include the return to campus of a small number of students and limited in-person instructional activities, most noticeably for our medical and dental students. Phase 3 is the essential step in which we repopulate with a measured and deliberate return of our undergraduate and other graduate students and faculty and staff to the campus. Only when this phase is complete will we be able to reach the “new normal”—a residential campus community in a world with COVID-19.