Faculty Senate Meeting March 9

Cost of COVID-19, emergency grants and budget cuts

The UW-Platteville Faculty Senate held one of their bimonthly meetings on March 9, 2021. This was a standard meeting, though it did provide some important insights into the recent past and future of the university.
Discussions began with Provost Tammy Evetovich commending the efforts of the university’s academic staff to accommodate the Pioneer Pause Days. She also brought up the success the university has had in distributing emergency funds provided through the CARES act. To date, nearly $3 million have been distributed to students in need of financial assistance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of these grants, over 90% of recipients continued to attend the university through spring and fall 2020.
In other news, the Faculty Senate has elected new members to join them. James Swenson, head of the Elections and Appointments committee, congratulated Tara Montgomery of BILSA, Anne-Marie Lerner of EMS and Dong Isbister of LAE. He continued on to say that the Faculty Senate will be electing senators at-large for next year in the coming weeks.
The Department of Geography is changing its name. Beginning this fall, the department will be known as the Department of Environmental Sciences and Society.
On the name change, Department Chair Christopher Underwood said, “When you look at environmental problems that we hope our students will address, and help fix, they’re all human in nature, and a healthy and resilient environment goes hand-in-hand with a healthy and resilient society. So, it’s just all really interwoven.”
Angela Udelhoven, Paige Smith, Cathy Reidel-Farrey and Ron Reck brought the senate a presentation on enrollment and financial projections for the next few years. They projected that, based on the enrollment data of the past few years and the effects of the pandemic, the university may see a return to normal enrollment trends as soon as 2025, which would likely reverse the university’s current budget deficit.
Due to COVID-19, the university is projected to post losses/expenses of $21.2 million this year. COVID-related expenses totaled approximately $10.9 million, including $5 million in emergency grants for students; $1.6 million for student income continuation payments, unemployment benefits, emergency leave and payments to new staff hired to clean the isolation facility on campus; and $1.6 million for COVID-19 testing. Additional expenses were also incurred while preparing classrooms for online learning, PPE and cleaning of the buildings on campus. According to the committee, the university also lost approximately $6.4 million in revenue this past year compared to last year.
While the university is receiving emergency funding from the government to keep the lights on, amounting to approximately $15.2 million, there is still a $7 million deficit overall as of this semester. To help reverse this trend, the university will develop and implement a budget reduction plan over the next three years, beginning with a granular assessment of the university’s current expenses and how they compare to current and future revenues. While they are still unsure of what form these budget reductions will take in, it is likely the public will be given a clearer picture as this budget plan is developed.