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VCU expects a financial loss of at least $75 million during spring semester

VCU expects a financial loss of at least $75 million during spring semester

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People wear masks inside and outside of Cabell Library on the VCU campus Friday, October 16, 2020.

Revenues for Virginia Commonwealth University likely will fall at least $75 million in the spring 2021 semester, President Michael Rao told the school’s board of visitors on Friday.

And that’s the best-case scenario for a future still clouded by the pandemic. Revenue losses could reach $144 million. VCU Health is projecting a loss of $60 million.

“Obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to avoid that,” Rao said.

The university’s overall budget this year is $1.3 billion.

VCU has saved costs by refinancing bonds, freezing some spending and hiring and integrating its purchasing and accounts payable systems to be more efficient.

The board voted Friday to refinance $35.2 million in Virginia College Building Authority bonds, which were used to pay for School of Medicine buildings, the Massey Cancer Center, housing, parking and other amenities.

“I’m really concerned,” Rao said. “I’m deeply concerned about these next couple months.”

Enrollment is down at the university, and fewer students lived on campus this year, meaning fewer students paid for room and board, meal plans and parking. In many hospitals, the number of emergency room visits still have not returned to prepandemic levels.

Freshman enrollment sank 14% this year, but an increase in online graduate students caused the school’s total enrollment to decline just 3%. Most of VCU’s classes were offered online this fall.

Earlier this year, VCU received $26 million in CARES Act funds, which buoyed financial reserves.

VCU announced Friday it received a gift of $24 million from the estate of Kenneth and Dianne Wright. The school will send $16 million to the Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Science, $4 million to the College of Engineering and $4 million to the VCU Health adult outpatient facility currently under construction in downtown Richmond. The outpatient facility is scheduled to open at the end of 2021.

Kenneth Wright died in 2019, and Dianne Wright died in 2013. Together, they donated more than $70 million to VCU.

Next semester, VCU will make coronavirus testing mandatory for on-campus students and employees, said Meredith Weiss, vice president for administration. . Other universities, including the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, mandated coronavirus testing during the fall semester while VCU allowed students the option to decline tests. Weiss said the university is working toward adding saliva tests, which are used at UVA.

ekolenich@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6109

Twitter: @EricKolenich

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Eric Kolenich writes about higher education, sports, coronavirus and protests for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the newspaper in 2009 after graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in English. (804) 649-6109

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