UD’s stimulus money not expected to cover financial loss; administrators wait for guidance

Photo of the University of Dayton taken by Christian Cubacub

Franchesca Hackworth
Asst. Online Editor 

The University of Dayton is set to receive $5,197,738 in stimulus money from the nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill passed last month, but this amount is expected to cover just 17.3 percent of the university’s financial loss due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The 5.2 million dollars in total, we don’t expect it’s going to fill the gap and meet the need, but we’re still very grateful for the work of our elected representatives to advocate for higher ed,” said Eric Spina, president of the University of Dayton.

Altogether, UD is expected to lose approximately $15 million this semester since remote learning began and the news hit that UD would be continuing remote learning for the rest of the semester, Spina said in a video interview Thursday.

“The biggest hit we’ve taken this semester, this year, will be the credits and the refunds to seniors of housing and dining,” he said. “We will probably break even as a university where previously we would have run a surplus.” 

In some ways, UD is able to make up for financial loss by turning down the temperature in buildings since no one is on campus and little to no travel expenses because no one can travel during the global pandemic.

The stimulus money does indeed come with stipulations, namely, half of the amount must go directly to students, Spina said. Therefore, the university will technically only get to use about $2.6 million to cover the $15 million in revenue that they have lost this year.

“It’s 2.6 million dollars so it’s real money and we never want to say that it’s not important but that alone is not a game changer for us,” Spina said.

UD is financially okay this year but with less revenue and a projected increase in needed financial aid, problems could persist. 

“It’s the uncertainty that puts us in a position of really making some difficult decisions of how we go forward in terms of expenses and so on,” he said.

The university is thinking about how the pandemic has affected the parents of UD’s students and the fact that some could have lost their jobs during the shut-down. 

UD has already been seeing more appeals for financial aid, so they are thinking about how they are going to support incoming students as well as returning students, Spina said during the interview.

The $2.6 million that will be going to students will be put into a pool and made available on an application basis with certain guidelines in place, he said.

UD’s director of financial aid and people from student development are working on a proposal for how the money is going to be applied. 

“It really is for students who have experienced some financial challenge as a result of the pandemic,” Spina said.

Financial challenges could be things such as not having the money for gas, flights or a hotel when coming to retrieve belongings from campus, experiencing food insecurity in the few weeks following the activation of remote learning or both parents losing their jobs and needing an additional couple thousand dollars in financial aid to return next semester.

“We anticipate once we think this through making certain that our students understand this is available and there are going to be some restrictions in terms of which students are eligible and which students are not.” 

UD sent out a press release Wednesday regarding the university’s student crisis fund and how there has been a dramatic increase in requests, as well as donations, amid the pandemic.

The University has received more than 300 requests from current students for emergency aid, including help with groceries, personal items and in some cases transportation home, since the pandemic began,” the release stated.

UD has also received more than $100,000 in donations to the fund.

Many of the students who applied reported having jobs on or near campus which left them in need of additional assistance once remote learning was implemented and students were asked to leave campus. 

See also- UD’s international students left unemployed as rent lingers

The amount of stimulus money that each university will be given is based upon two criteria: residential enrollment for the last year and the percentage of those students that are Pell eligible, Spina said. Pell grants go to students from lower socioeconomic levels.

Surrounding universities’ expected stimulus money amounts have also been released. Wright State University is expected to receive $10,140,846; Miami University, $12,989,033; Sinclair Community College, $7,434,204; University of Cincinnati, $23,527,312; and Cedarville University, $2,294,323.

With a number of universities being criticized for not dipping into their endowments to deal with the financial crisis that the coronavirus pandemic has spurred, Spina was asked about UD’s endowments and the nature of the university’s use of them.

True endowments can only come from a donor to the university with specific instructions, for example, ‘I am giving money to the University of Dayton which will be used for scholarships for a specific group of individuals who meet a certain criteria’ or ‘this money will go to a professorship in microbiology,’ Spina explained.

Essentially, the funds are endowed for a purpose and restricted so that they cannot be used for whatever the university deems necessary. 

However, the university does have a seperate pool of money known as reserves. 

Reserves are separate from endowments. Instead of money that is given to the university like endowments, reserves are funds that the university has when they have a surplus year where they make a profit.

The money made during the surplus is taken and put into a separate bank account for a “rainy day.” Spina says the money in the university’s reserves can be used, but the university has to be careful because once the funds are used up, they’re done.

“It’s raining and these are rainy day funds. Though you should use them when it’s raining, a deluge may come,” he said.

True endowments are not an option for UD at this point as they come with certain stipulations. However, if needed, there are reserves to fall back on but it must be a dire need so that the money the university does have will not run dry.

See also- UD officials address COVID-19 financial struggles in virtual town hall meetings 

Just as health officials do not know what the future holds, neither does Spina or the University of Dayton, but he is preparing for a number of scenarios during the fall semester of 2020.

Right now, the university is waiting for the governor and the state public health director to give them guidance regarding the potential for students to come back in the fall. If UD is to bring 11,000 students on campus, the university wants to know what the expectations are.

UD administrators are looking at all kinds of worst case scenarios for the fall.

Spina says the university has probably 10 to 13 ways that they are thinking about how they could continue education whether it be hybrid, purley online, purley residential, but at this point they say it is all a guessing game until they hear more from officials. 

Until that time, Spina sends a message to the UD community during a time when everyone is so far apart.

“I miss you, I really miss the students,” he said. “Explicitly to the seniors, the faculty and staff do understand that this is a loss but hope that students overtime will remember those first three and a half years and the connections that were built.” 

“Let’s continue to be the University of Dayton, a place that is hyper connected to each other.”

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