MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Higher education is suffering under the financial burden created by the pandemic. WVU President Gordon Gee was a guest on Talkline and said choppy seas are ahead for many institutions.
“There’s a story I was reading today that there are 4,500 institutions in the country,” Gee said,”It is projected that 1,000 of them may have to close.”
WVU is considering furloughing some workers during the summer, but Gee says their size will help them weather this storm.
“The is a very big institution, we very fortunate to be very big,” Gee said,” If we were a small institution would be looking at something much more draconian.”
At this point furloughing workers is just an option according to Gee.
The school recently received $20.2 million, more than half of that will go to student relief and the balance will cover the deficit creating by refunding student housing fees due to the shift to online learning at spring break. An estimated 5,000 students have already applied for a portion $10.2 million dedicated to student financial relief.
The WVU Foundation is well funded, but Gee says money is being raised for student scholarships and other university-related projects.
“Most of the money the foundation raises is designated for various projects, so it’s restricted,” Gee said,”We don’t have a lot of unrestricted cash that we can just call upon.”
Looking ahead, Gee says the options for fall could be totally online, bringing students back with social distancing guidelines or even doing the first eight weeks online then bringing students to campus.
“Through the work of Dr. Marsh and thanks to the strong response of Governor Justice we are a pink state not a red state,” Gee said,”That means we have a lot more flexibility to deal with things than do a lot of other states.”
Increased testing and reducing class sizes are important ways to manage the risk and create a safe environment for students to return. Also, having the capacity to quarantine students that do test positive is vital.
If students return, Gee says there will be football. Milan Puskar Stadium could be filled with people wearing masks or capacity could be limited to promote social distancing.
“I don’t know a great deal about sports, but I do know it brings a sense of community together,” Gee said,”So, hopefully we’ll be able to provide that sense of community through some of the things we’re going to do with football.”