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UW-Whitewater chancellor details financial losses, costs from COVID-19 | Education

UW-Whitewater, which was dealing with substantial budget cuts before the coronavirus pandemic hit the area, lost more than $10.6 million in revenue after giving refunds from university housing, dining and elsewhere last semester, the chancellor said last week.

Chancellor Dwight Watson shared about other financial losses and costs during a call last week with Forward Janesville and other local education officials:

  • UW-W had to return $2.25 million in state support for fiscal year 2020, and they also expect “a lapse in state support for 2021.”
  • UW-W has spent about $1.4 million on COVID-19 supplies, temporary labor and technology.
  • The university suffered $2.9 million in additional operational revenue losses from camps and other sources of revenue.

“Of course, all of this has come at a great cost to our university,” Watson said.

But the chancellor also said financial planning in 2019, when the university started looking at cost-cutting measures and other efficiencies, helped find savings near $14 million, “Putting us in a better position to weather these challenges.”

Watson announced June 29 the university would require masks and social distancing, request daily online health screenings and offer “limited” coronavirus testing for students with symptoms.


UW-Whitewater to require masks, social distancing for fall semester

He said during the call last week that UW-W has contracted with three organizations to provide testing, and they are looking at more options to increase capacity.

Watson said some colleges and universities asked students to sign pledges or liability waivers ahead of returning to campuses. But he said he did not think that approach would work for UW-W, adding that “encouraging them, rather than hammering them with rules” would get better compliance.

There has been some “handwringing” about college students and their ability to stay safe and socially distanced, he said.

“We believe that our Warhawks work hard to do the right thing,” he said.

Students arriving on campus will get a university-branded face covering, a thermometer and hand sanitizer, he said.

While Watson has repeatedly stressed that safety is the priority for students, faculty and staff, he also said they want to “maximize” in-person, face-to-face instruction.

If they haven’t heard already, he said, students would soon hear about the format of their classes. About 40% of classes will be in-person, about 30% will be virtual and about 30% a hybrid version of those two, he added.

The dorms are nearing their new capacities after reductions due to the coronavirus, he said.

Recently, Watson said UW-W approved the hiring of more nursing staff, and this fall health services will have an office at the Rock County campus as well.

A university spokeswoman, Sara Kuhl, said in an email the health part of University Health and Counseling Services is planning to open a clinic on the campus in Janesville.

Rock County students, she said, have been able to use the services on the Whitewater campus, and they had a counselor on-site in Janesville this last year.

After having to postpone spring’s in-person commencement ceremony, Watson said, a group was looking into how to celebrate those graduates during the December graduation.

“I wish I was more optimistic about the potential for these events to be in person, but the current public health members are telling us a different story,” he said.

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