The Executive Committee of the William & Mary Board of Visitors met today virtually to hear presentations and updates by President Katherine A. Rowe and senior leadership on the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the second virtual meeting in response to Virginia’s declared State of Emergency.
The meeting included updates on the status and rollout of classes, as 2000+ William & Mary courses continued in distance modes. Campus communications and plans to enable an on-campus fall semester were discussed. Updates from leadership on the financial impact of COVID-19 included emergency support for students and flexible work guidelines for staff and faculty. Assistance has included direct cash rebates on W&M room and board, emergency relief contributions from W&M’s Student Assembly, and philanthropic gifts to support students in need; many W&M students have donated their rebates towards emergency funding for their peers. W&M is in the process of determining how to distribute the federal CARES Act relief funds to support the most vulnerable students, officials said.
Importantly, the Executive Committee heard reports on the preliminary financial impact of COVID-19 on the current and upcoming fiscal years. Following these presentations, the Board of Visitors and administration concurred that, due to the impact of the pandemic on admitted students and their families, the Board would roll back a previously adopted 3% tuition increase for incoming in-state undergraduates in fall 2020. This would achieve a zero increase for tuition and mandatory fees for all students. The future action to undo the tuition increase is part of the university’s planful response to the COVID-19 pandemic – one among several emergency actions the university will take. A full meeting of the Board will take place in May, when the administration will recommend its 2020-21 budget.
“This pandemic presents so many new challenges for our students and families that we must rethink our planning. William & Mary is focused now and for next year on ways to help flatten the curve of financial impact on our university and our communities,” Rowe said. “I am so grateful for the Board’s steady guidance and support in that effort.”
“We also understand that each institution must determine their own solutions based on their unique situation. This approach is the right one for us.”
In November 2019, as part of its six-year plan, the Board approved a 3% increase for new in-state undergraduates arriving in the fall 2020 and no increase for rising in-state sophomores, juniors and seniors. Tuition and fees for out-of-state undergraduates and for graduate students are established each spring as part of the Board’s budget resolution. The Board anticipates taking no action regarding students in these categories in May, ensuring that all tuition and mandatory fees will stay flat next year.
Rector John Littel said the Board has encouraged the university to look for ways to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on students and families.
“I am grateful for the work of the president and the leadership team to consider the impact of this pandemic on our community and how we can navigate these challenges together,” Littel said. “It is prudent to reconsider any increases in costs at this time, so as to lessen the financial impact on students and families.”
In response to the pandemic, the administration has already implemented several immediate measures to limit near-term spending until more is known about long-term financial impacts. The university instituted a hiring freeze, filling only positions that are required to maintain continuity of operations. For the remainder of the fiscal year, employees have been asked to curtail all purchases not considered “mission critical,” with the exception of externally funded research and expenses.
Rowe also said that a planning team – which includes faculty, staff and students from across the institution – has been charged with exploring scenarios related to possible COVID-19 impacts over the next 18 months. It will work swiftly to bring ideas to the president and community by June.
“William & Mary has been here for 327 years and we intend to be here for all times coming, “ Rowe said. “We are asking the whole of the university to plan prudently. Our planning ahead effort will focus on opportunities and lessons learned. We will bring our best thinking to find creative ways to help to ensure that students and their families, staff, and faculty can continue to pursue our core mission of teaching, learning and research.
“I am enormously proud of the powerful sense of shared purpose I see everywhere in the W&M community. Coming out of this crisis, we will be stronger as a result of the challenges we surmount together.”
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