Housing Project On Hold As ISU Navigates $44M Hit From COVID | WGLT

Housing Project On Hold As ISU Navigates $44M Hit From COVID

Sep 9, 2020

Illinois State students will have to wait a bit longer for a new on-campus housing complex, an expanded nursing simulation lab, and improvements to Milner Library as the university tries to navigate an expected $44.2 million financial blow from COVID-19.

That scope of that financial impact, spread out over two fiscal years, was laid out at Wednesday’s Academic Senate meeting by Vice President for Finance and Planning Dan Stephens. ISU will largely rely on its $238 million in reserves to withstand the lost revenue and added costs of COVID, he said. Steady enrollment this fall also helps cushion the blow, he said.

“We’re fortunate that at the universal level we’ve been fairly conservative fiscally, so we’ve got an ability to manage through this pandemic. It’s obviously something no one prepared for, but we are fortunate that we have healthy amount of reserves, and a healthy organization, and we will survive this from a financial point of view,” Stephens said.

But ISU is delaying several major building projects to save money.

A planned 1,200-bed student housing project expected to rise across from the Student Fitness Center is temporarily on hold, Stephens said. Also on hold are the new Student Success Center and Faculty Success Center at Milner Library and the expansion of the nursing lab. The cybersecurity expansion at Julian Hall and Multicultural Center projects are moving ahead.

COVID has cost ISU a lot of money—and fast. ISU issued around $18.1 million in housing, dining, and student fee refunds when COVID first arrived. This fall, ISU has around 2,400 fewer students living on campus, which was a $6.5 million revenue loss. A steep decline in dining contracts will cost another $7.9 million.

That’s come as ISU has had to spend more money to accommodate remote learning. ISU expects to invest about $5.5 million in online/hybrid instructional IT over two years. That includes $1.7 million in COVID-specific needs, such as $60,000 for Zoom licensing and $250,000 in additional malware and phishing protection. ISU also recently spent $417,000 to buy loaner laptops for students who need them.

That adds up to a $44.2 million financial impact over two years. And that includes $8 million in federal CARES Act relief funds. (Another $8 million in CARES money went directly to students.)

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