‘The revenue picture for us remains unclear’: VCU expects drop in enrollment; no furloughs planned

VCU’s budget doesn’t include plans to furlough employees. (BizSense file photo)

Fewer students and disruptions to revenue are in the offing for VCU as it looks toward the new academic year.

The school’s Board of Visitors on Friday approved a $1.4 billion budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The budget avoids staff furloughs and keeps tuition rates level with last year. The budget is a slight increase from the $1.3 billion budget approved for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

But given the unusual circumstances of a global pandemic, VCU’s budget is subject to change, President Michael Rao said.

“The revenue picture for us remains unclear. We have uncertainty of all the things we’re so dependent on at this institution: state support, federal stimulus funds and, of course, enrollment continues to be a major factor,” Rao said. “I’m not recommending furloughs at this time because we don’t know if they will be needed.”

VCU officials expect that enrollment will be 10 percent lower during the period, which translates into a $55 million drop in tuition revenue. The school has approximately 30,000 students. The overall budget anticipates $619 million in total revenues and the same number in expenses.

The university and health system have about 18,000 employees combined, including roughly 2,600 full-time instructional staff, and 7,000 part-time employees, according to VCU’s website.

Among measures to offset decreased revenue, the college called on $16.4 million in reserve funds, and instituted hiring and salary freezes as well as department budget reductions that totaled $29 million. The college made minimal expenditure increases, largely related to safe operation in the pandemic. It budgeted $2.6 million for cleaning and protective equipment costs.

Its budget for health research purposes is $331 million in revenue and the same number in expenses.

The budget follows the school’s announcement last Wednesday that it would conduct a phased reopening of the campus for the fall semester, which will begin Aug. 17. Faculty and staff will begin to return in June. There won’t be breaks between day one and the last day of classes Nov. 24. Finals will be done remotely.

On-campus courses might be smaller to accommodate physical distancing guidelines, and students might be required to alternate their in-person attendance for some classes. Courses might be a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction. The college still is weighing how it wants to observe December graduation. The school will distribute kits of washable masks, disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer to students and employees.

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Steve Richmond
Steve Richmond
1 month ago

VCU: 10% drop in enrollment, but “no furloughs . . . .” It certainly must be nice to have the deep pockets of taxpayers upon which to rely.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Richmond

Steve, what type of employees could be furloughed? It isn’t like the entire student body is in a single class or major. If a class of 30 (or 10) lost 3 (or 1, respectively), the need is the same for the staff, facility and support. So is housing, food service and security.

I’m note sure there are many places to trim the staff.

Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Richmond

Why would furloughs be necessary given it’s the beginning of the budget year and the high number of temporary employees VCU uses? As noted more changes can happen, but it’s pretty easy for them to utilize less part time staff until more is known without impacting their full time staff. Keep in mind many students use loans to pay for school now, which makes education pretty well insulated from the ups and downs of the economy.