Managing Campus Finances During The Corona Virus Pandemic

A crisis of this magnitude and its expected length calls for colleges and universities to put in place both Structure and Process to address and plan for the immediate, short term, and long-term financial impacts on the institution.

Structure should include a high level multi disciplinary Task Force that meets regularly throughout the epidemic.  A senior member of the cabinet should lead this group. 

Process should include charging a Financial Working group to bring together subject matter experts to study issues raised by the epidemic and to make recommendations to the Task Force.  The chief financial officer should organize the financial working groups and synthesize their work to inform CEO/cabinet decision-making.

The complexity of this crisis with its unique and never before seen aspects will demand that management tackle these and other questions and challenges:

·         For the balance of this academic year what is the net cost of actions mandated by government entities, as well as other actions deemed essential for your institution.  For example, if the campus is closed for some portion of the spring and summer terms, how will the institution deal with requests for partial tuition and room and board refunds?

·         Maintaining market share while addressing student, faculty and staff safety is a critical issue.  What additional financial investments may be needed to complete the fall 2020 enrollment process; what adjustments to the academic program for AY 2021 may be needed?  How do the institution’s shared values and strategy inform these investments?

·         Institution financial modeling will need to address multiple student enrollment and academic delivery system scenarios, including mandated virus transmission prevention practices.

·         Normal stakeholder financial reporting should be tailored to the over-arching goals that the institution is pursuing to minimize long-term negative financial impacts on the institution, while making necessary investments in campus health and safety.

Emergency preparedness is a must at colleges and universities today.  Financial officers should include in financial forecasting models impacts of emergency events that inform responsive action plans.  Responding to a new virus epidemic will surely be high on that list for colleges and universities now and in the future.