Category: Messages to the Community

Title: Impacts of COVID-19 on the University Community

Date Published: April 7, 2020

Dear Georgetown Faculty and Staff:

I wish to begin in gratitude to each member of our community for the care, compassion, and resilience you have demonstrated throughout these past weeks. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health of our community, the ways we teach and work, the ways we interact with each other, and the ways that we and our families live each day. These are some of the most challenging times that many of us have ever experienced.

Our work in these past weeks has been, first and foremost, focused on protecting the health of our community and ensuring that we could continue to provide an academic framework for teaching and learning. We continue to adapt to the uncertainty we face through coordinated action across the University and by managing financial resources to ensure we can continue to sustain our mission. The steps we have taken would not have been possible without the collective commitment of all of you, and your willingness to take on these challenges in ways that serve our Georgetown community and our local, national and global communities.

As we enter the fourth week of our virtual learning environment, we are now turning our attention to the time ahead.

The coming months bring a sense of profound uncertainty. We may experience this uncertainty both personally and in our professional capacities—as we reflect on when and how we will return to “normal,” and what that new normal might look like.

I write to share with you how we are addressing the financial impact of COVID-19 on our University community, outline some of the uncertainties we confront, and share the immediate next steps we will take together, as we bring closure to the final quarter of our fiscal year.

Financial Impact

The financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected millions across our nation.

In these past few weeks, we have had to take swift and unprecedented action—moving our community into a virtual learning environment, and, as much as possible, a teleworking environment. We have done so while working to alleviate the burdens on our most vulnerable students, and protecting the livelihoods of our faculty, staff, and contract workers. Over the past month, we have taken a number of actions, including:

  • Transitioned to a virtual learning environment and telework continuity, where possible;
  • Brought our undergraduate students home from study abroad programs;
  • Supported students in their move out from residence halls, including packing and storing belongings for students who needed assistance;
  • Prorated, credited, and refunded student costs for room, board, and other fees;
  • Established accommodations for our workforce, including student employees and contract workers;
  • Created a new category of paid leave for COVID-19-related time off;
  • Provided free meals and parking to students and employees whose work necessitates that they remain on-campus (and cancelled parking fees for all employees);
  • Expanded the GUCares program to make emergency funds available to employees in need for COVID-19 related impacts.

Providing this care has required approximately $25 million in immediate unbudgeted spending. In the coming months, we anticipate that short-term revenue losses (e.g., for summer courses and programming) will create an even larger financial impact.

As we carefully monitor our University’s financial resources in the time ahead, we will be paying special attention to several key indicators, including enrollment for the upcoming academic year, our commitment to meeting the full financial need of our admitted undergraduate students, research funding, the performance of our endowment, and philanthropy. Taken together, these elements support over 90 percent of the University budget.

Student Enrollment: We will closely monitor the conclusion of the admissions process as admitted students make their final decisions on whether to enroll at Georgetown. Tuition supports over 50 percent of our overall University budget. As a global community, we recognize there is particular uncertainty for our more than 3,000 international students and the status of travel restrictions in the months ahead.

Research Funding: As we have moved to a virtual learning environment, we have also implemented a research continuity plan—to protect our researchers—that has limited bench research to those activities necessary to protect assets and maintain existing resources. The initiation of new laboratory studies has been limited to only those directly related to the understanding and mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic. This pause is likely to impact our extramurally funded research, which typically comprises 18 percent of our overall budget.

Endowment: Our endowment funds nine percent of University operations. While the growth of our endowment has been very strong in recent years, we are managing through an unpredictable financial environment and we expect to have to manage a period of volatility.

Philanthropy: The pandemic has also disrupted our fundraising efforts and our experience has indicated that such disruptions can take time to resolve. During the 2008 financial crisis, for example, it took two years before we returned to pre-crisis levels of philanthropy.

At the same time, we are working to do everything we can to advocate for the support of higher education in federal legislation as Congress continues to debate and pass legislative packages to address the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Immediate Next Steps—The Final Quarter of Fiscal Year 2020

These challenging circumstances require that we immediately take disciplined steps to close out the current fiscal year in the strongest position possible, as we continue to manage in an environment of great economic uncertainty. Over the next 12 weeks through the conclusion of the current fiscal year on June 30, 2020, we will:

  • Pause new hiring. We will complete any recruitments of faculty already underway, and offers that have been extended for staff roles are eligible to be negotiated to conclusion. With those exceptions, hiring will be limited to only mission critical roles as determined by the Executive Vice Presidents and the Chief Operating Officer.
  • Pause salary increases. No salary increases will be approved for faculty, staff, or senior level executives for the remainder of the fiscal year. We will make a determination about the merit pool for the next fiscal year as soon as possible.
  • Pause discretionary spending. Our spending will focus on only those expenses critical to sustaining our virtualized operations for the remainder of the academic year. Any purchase above $2,500 will require approval by the appropriate campus Chief Financial Officer.

Through these disciplined steps we will position Georgetown to sustain the commitment to our mission. The University’s Chief Financial Officer, Dave Green, will follow up with a separate message to financial managers that outlines in more detail the administrative and financial procedures necessary to implement the steps I have shared above.

There are a number of uncertainties that we will be seeking to address in the coming weeks as we work to establish our framework for the coming academic year. I will be back in touch in the coming weeks with an update on how we will proceed.

With profound gratitude,

John J. DeGioia