Long Beach State is anticipating 10% to 20% budget cuts in the wake of COVID-19, President Jane Close Conoley announced Thursday.
“We’ve already gotten strong signals from the state government to expect pretty significant cuts,” Conoley said.
Cuts, she said, would impact the university’s ability to hire new staff and faculty, fund students’ ability to study abroad and host students from other nations.
Other impacted areas, like athletics and employment, may take an even larger hit.
“Really every part of the university is likely to have to shrink a bit,” Conoley said.
Recently, over 400 student employees were laid off from the 49er Shops, something Conoley said was a necessity but would like to avoid doing again in the future.
“I’m hoping that we can get through it by a hiring freeze and not by laying anybody off,” Conoley said.
Academic impacts for this semester due to coronavirus, such as the grading scale, is something Conoley said the Academic Senate is currently debating.
“I think what will happen is that all classes will be available for credit-no credit, but the deadline will be extended,” Conoley said. “So it’s still in the student’s hands whether they get a grade or credit-no credit.”
Students have recently taken to social media demanding more refunds for tuition and student fees, which Conoley said simply can’t be done.
“We have refunded fees for parking, for meal plans and for housing, we’re not planning to do other fees,” Conoley said. “And the reason why, I know this is a little in the weeds and obscure to people, but when you pay for, for example, a fee for the recreation center … what they’re really doing is paying the mortgage on that building, and that building is really owned by the students. There’s no general fund allowed to be involved in that.”
The university has raised over $94,000 for the student emergency fund to assist those in need, but Conoley said that the refunds already given may end up having serious consequences.
“So we gave the parking refunds, but that may have things downstream for that,” Conoley said. “Can we still afford to do shuttles? Because we gave back money … and that money really also pays the mortgages on the parking structures, as well as paving the streets.”
As of now, funds are being rearranged to accommodate departments and to keep staff members afloat. There is $6 billion in federal stimulus funding for higher education on the way to aid with struggles stemming from COVID-19.
“We’re using tuition dollars to pay the faculty,” Conoley said. “Although the method has changed, we’re still paying the same number of staff.”
Conoley also announced that a total of five Long Beach State community members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Four students, including the two that were initially announced on March 24, and another two students have tested positive and have all since recovered. One staff member was hospitalized for a brief period of time and has since been released.
Conoley also had news to share regarding the university’s plans for changes relating to admissions and instructional delivery.
Earlier this morning, Tim Moiza, associate dean of the college of professional and international education, sent out an email announcing that the summer 2020 session will be delivered through alternative education methods.
A decision on whether or not the fall semester will be face-to-face has yet to be made.
“We’re hoping, no, that fall will be face-to-face,” Conoley said. “It really comes down to whether or not public health officials will allow for gathering at all, or of a certain size.”
Along with a resumption of face-to-face instruction, Conoley said the university is hoping to hold commencement in the fall. Thanksgiving weekend is set as a tentative date.
“I know we’ll figure something out,” Conoley said. “The students have been very strong in saying that they really look forward to the face to face, and they don’t want some virtual creation.”
For the 2021 school year, ACT or SAT requirements will be removed, which Conoley said is to help assist incoming students.
“We’re worried about students being able to access the test,” Conoley said. “So it’s likely for one year only, we’ll develop a different strategy to come up with that index number.”
Conoley said that the changes incurred due to COVID-19 will most likely be permanent.
“That’s become a kind of new genre, now everybody’s writing about and in the higher-ed news, how this will change us forever,” Conoley said.
“Stick with us, there’ll be harder times ahead,” she added. “If these actual cuts come to our budget … the last thing we’d ever cut are student services and classes, but I think there’ll be some bumpy roads ahead.”