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Chancellor Briefing: COVID-19 response, fall enrollment plans

Chancellor Jim Schmidt provided updates on the university’s response to COVID-19 and the resulting budget impacts today in a livestreamed briefing for all faculty and staff. The briefings will continue on a weekly basis to keep employees informed about how the university is addressing an $8.5 million spring semester budget hole caused by moving to all-online instruction, as well as the novel coronavirus’s potential influence on fall enrollment and planning.

Here are the key points from this week’s briefing:

  • Since the university moved classes to virtual learning, $75,000 has been raised by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation to provide assistance to more than 150 students; university instructors have successfully moved 1,452 courses online.
  • UW System will make a decision about fall semester courses being held in person by mid-July. In the meantime, university administrators are preparing for a number of financial scenarios and instructors are encouraged to continue focusing on educating students virtually this semester. As previously announced, UW-Eau Claire’s summer courses will be held online.
  • Chancellor Schmidt is confident in the university’s ability to endure this disruptive period as the institution was in a strong financial position before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Student refunds — totaling near $7.1 million — for unused portions of housing, dining, parking and recreation contracts are being disbursed next week using emergency cash reserves. The remainder of the $8.5 million budget shortfall comes from lost revenue and one-time expenses related to COVID-19 preparations and technological support.
  • The university will receive $3.5 million in federal aid through the CARES Act, and an additional $3.5 million designated for student aid. For now, departments will curtail non-essential spending and consider strategic hiring freezes as the university works to mitigate the impact of the spring semester budget shortfall.
  • The Board of Regents approved a furlough policy at its meeting today, and Chancellor Schmidt indicated the Eau Claire, Rice Lake and Marshfield campuses will first conduct transparent discussions over budget measures to prepare for potential enrollment and tuition revenue declines.

For additional information, UW-Eau Claire students and employees can visit the Chancellor COVID-19 Briefings page on the Chancellor’s Office Blugold Insider site, and public resources are available at The next Chancellor Briefing will be Thursday, April 23, at 5 p.m.