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The financial impact of the coronavirus could linger well into the coming school year for Bowdoin College in Brunswick.
The school expects to lose more than $20 million during the upcoming school year, Bowdoin College President Clayton Rose said Friday in a message to the campus community. That is equal to 15 percent of the expected operating budget for the 2020-2021 academic year, Rose said.
“I wish that this end of the academic year was also bringing an end to the challenges we all face with respect to COVID-19, but unfortunately that is not the case. This will be with us for some time, impacting many aspects of our lives. There will be no ‘normal’ for a while,” Rose said.
That news comes after the Bowdoin announced in April it could lose more than $8 million through June’s end. The hit primarily came from room-and-board refunds after the college opted to not have students return after spring break and financial assistance Bowdoin provided to low-income students to cover travel expenses and other coronavirus-related costs. That loss amounted to 5 percent of Bowdoin’s $175.8 million operating budget for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The losses for the upcoming year are expected to be well in excess of those Bowdoin saw during the Great Recession.
Rose said the college’s largest one-year loss between 2009 and 2011 was $3 million. That was lower than the anticipated $9 million, but the loss was stemmed through wage, budget and hiring freezes.
It is likely Bowdoin will need to take similar cost-cutting measures, but even then that may not eliminate what Rose called “a substantial deficit.”
In his Friday message, Rose said no decisions have been made yet.
“I am acutely aware that uncertainty about College finances and the budget next year continues to be cause for significant worry, and I very much wish I could alleviate some of the anxiety,” Rose said.
Rose also said it’s unclear yet whether on-campus classes will resume later this year or continue remotely. Bowdoin closed its campus to students and visitors in mid-March, becoming one of the first Maine universities to take that step in response to the growing coronavirus crisis. Final exams for the spring semester ended last week.
Any return to campus will require extensive coronavirus testing of the student population, reducing density in dorms and classrooms, extensive cleaning and physical distancing, according to Rose.
“If we are able to be on campus this fall, it is likely that some courses will still need to be online to deal with large classes, where physical distancing would not be possible, and to accommodate students and faculty who are in health-compromised situations or students who cannot return to campus,” Rose said.