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UVa board discusses ways of mitigating costs incurred by pandemic

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors discussed aspects of financial mitigation from the cost of the coronavirus pandemic during a virtual Monday meeting.

The public portion of the meeting lasted about a half-hour before the board went into closed session to discuss financial matters.

Prior to the closed meeting, UVa President Jim Ryan briefly discussed efforts the university has taken to offset the cost of the pandemic, including making use of portions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which was passed by Congress in March.

According to Ryan, the CARES Act already allocated some funds to UVa and other institutions of higher education, a portion of which was set aside for direct costs for reimbursing students for housing and dining costs after they were sent home in March.

However, there is an additional portion of the funding given to states that can be allocated to state agencies, including public colleges and universities. According to Ryan, there is about $1.6 billion in that fund and Virginia has set up a process for seeking reimbursements.

Earlier Monday, Ryan said the university submitted applications on behalf of the academic division, the UVa Health System and UVa’s College at Wise.

“A portion of the application on the Health System side is a proposal to scale up testing so that we can serve not just Charlottesville and UVa, but the rest of the commonwealth, with a focus on higher education,” he said.

Ryan said UVa also has launched a scholarship program to help students who have been impacted by the pandemic. The scholarships will provide one-year grants to students, some of whom may not have been eligible for financial aid in the past. The goal is to raise $4 million to $5 million and help approximately 700 students, Ryan said.

Board members did not discuss in open session a 3.6% tuition increase for the 2020-21 academic year that they approved in December.

Per the approved rate, tuition and mandatory fees will increase for current in-state students between $510 and $880 annually and $1,710 to $2,094 for out-of-state students. The changes apply to those in the College of Arts & Sciences, the Curry School of Education and Human Development, the School of Architecture and the McIntire School of Commerce.

Some universities and colleges, including the College of William & Mary, have walked back on tuition increases in the wake of the pandemic. UVa’s Financial Analysis and Planning division did not respond to requests for clarification about whether the school would continue with its approved tuition increase.

UVa Provost M. Elizabeth Magill discussed some of the efforts the university is taking during phase one of its preparation for the coming fall semester, including determining under which conditions it would be safe for students to return, how to socially distance in classrooms and how to improve online learning.

Magill said the school surveyed all undergraduate students about various aspects related to the fall semester and, as of Monday, had a 70% response rate. She said she expects the results to be released later in the week.

“We’re going to continue, as I said, engaging the university community with various surveys and focus groups and consultation and participation across rounds in these workgroups,” she said.

In the more immediate future, Magill said the university will determine how to handle session three of its summer classes. The first two sessions were moved online due to safety concerns and Magill indicated that UVa will make an announcement about session three by June 1.


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