ESU has not been immune to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and neither has its budget.
With most students learning from home this semester, ESU will not collect nearly as much revenue from things like on campus housing and student fees.
This will be a substantial blow to ESU’s finances, as student fees make up between 70 to 75% of their operating income.
A primary concern among students is that they will see increases in tuition, housing costs and student fees as a result of the lack of generated income by ESU.
Kenneth Long, former CFO at ESU and now interim president, has expressed that tuition increases will be slim, if any.
“Based on the verbiage I’m hearing from the board of governors, an increase will be close to zero,” Long said. “Tuition is not changing this year.”
However, Long went on to state that all other costs are most likely going up.
Upgrades to technology, as well as employment of faculty and staff make up the majority of ESU’s yearly spending.
The university is attempting to maintain a balance between increasing costs and making cuts to faculty and staff positions.
This month, 25 staff members on campus have been furloughed and the university has cut 30 vacant faculty positions.
It is difficult, however, to balance effectively without the support of the state.
Even before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Pennsylvania was one of the least funded states in the U.S. when it comes to higher education.
Consequently, the state has ranked last or near last in overall quality of education for years.
Long has stressed that the lack of state support hinders the ability of the university to provide a quality education at an affordable price point.
He also discussed the ongoing conversation regarding the decision to resume face to face to face classes in the spring.
The university faced criticism after former president, Marcia Welsh, announced the reopening of campus for the fall semester back in June, and then reversed on the decision just weeks later.
According to Long, the driving factor will be whether or not the university can provide a safe environment for students, faculty and staff.
“We are an interactive campus,” Long said. “That’s part of going to ESU, is that campus environment. We can only have that if we can have it safely.”
Long added that the University will decide by the end of October whether or not to resume face to face classes and open the campus.
Another issue the university will have to tackle will be their policy surrounding a potential coronavirus vaccine.
The Stroud Courier inquired as to whether or not coronavirus vaccination would be mandatory among students and staff when a vaccine is made available.
“It’s tricky,” Long said. “We are a public institution. Unless the commonwealth or the feds make a mandate, the institution cannot.”
The CDC has announced that we could see a vaccine for the coronavirus as soon as January. Top medical officials, however, have said that is the best possible scenario and it could likely be longer.
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