College incurs $6.8 million in virus-related costs, receives $1.12 million in federal aid
April 17, 2020
As of March 30, Bowdoin has lost $6.8 million due to expenses related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the transition to remote learning, according to senior administrators.
Most of the sum—$6.2 million—comes from room and board refunds issued to students, and the remaining $600,000 of expenses came from the costs associated with conducting classes online and moving students out of campus housing.
The maximum refund for a student living in college housing and on the 19 meal-per-week plan was approximately $4,125.
In addition to the significant initial expenses, the College expects to incur further costs in the coming months.
“We will continue to see costs accumulate over the last three months of the fiscal year and expect the total to be well in excess of $8 million,” wrote Matt Orlando, senior vice president for finance and administration and College treasurer, in an email to the Orient.
The loss represents 3.9 percent of the College’s $175.8 million operating budget for fiscal year 2019-20. The current figures do not include losses to the College’s $1.74 billion endowment. According to Orlando, performance data for the endowment will not be available until August.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Colby College’s endowment had dropped from $900 million at the end of last year to $803 million, an 11 percent decrease.
A small portion of Bowdoin’s losses will be offset by the $1.12 million in federal support that the school will receive from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in March.
Per stipulations in the law, the College must distribute at least half of the funds as emergency financial aid grants to students to defray the cost of food, housing, technology, healthcare and other necessary expenses.
The College has not yet announced how it will distribute these grants but is “working through the rules and processes that are part of the CARES relief,” wrote Whitney Soule, dean of admissions and financial aid, in an email to the Orient. Soule indicated that the College will announce plans to distribute funds in the coming weeks.
Bowdoin is awaiting final guidelines from the Department of Education before deciding how to use the remaining half of the funds, according to Orlando. A statement from Senator Susan Collins (ME) released on Monday indicated that colleges and universities can use the remaining funds to defray general costs associated with purchasing technology to expand remote learning or for additional emergency financial aid grants.
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How exactly is the college losing money from having to refund room and board fees? The rooms aren’t occupied so undoubtedly the buildings are shuttered; no use of electricity, no heating expenses, no use of water, no need for housekeeping, and the property is owned by the college so no mortgage payments. As an educational institution, most of these building don’t get assessed taxes either. With no students on campus, there is no need to pay resident assistants or proctors and no need to purchase food or operate dining facilities. Funds set aside for student programming and events remain unused. Aren’t these the expenses room & board fees go toward? Unless the college diverts these funds for purposes other than the stated room & board, I fail to see how there is a anything beyond a minimal financial loss in any of these areas.
Sort of… They did refund us for housing, they are paying some unknown percentage of our campus work salary, they had to buy a zoom education plan, payout for lab equipment to send to people… but I agree it should work in their favor if we are off campus
Has the college saved money anywhere? Perhaps in energy?