COVID-19 impacts local institutions

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EUREKA, Ca (KIEM) – Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods are looking at serious budget cuts and a fall 2020 enrollment deficit due to COVID -19.

HSU and CR were already facing millions of dollars in budget reductions. But now with COVID-19 impacting colleges nationwide, HSU is projecting a 20 million dollar deficit over two years as opposed to the initial 5.4 million dollar deficit and CR is preparing for deeper state budget cuts as well.

“Our current focus is on remote learning for obvious reasons,” CR Board of Trustee President Coleen Mullery said. “But, but I do believe that the hard intense thoughtful work that the faculty and staff have engaged in in these last several weeks will pay for them if you will in the future.”

Both local institutions are already exploring options at balancing the budget. Some options they are exploring include a hiring freeze, operational changes, and travel reductions.

“We are going to need to take a 20 million dollar reduction to our budget,” Vice President of Administration and Finance Doug Dawes said. “This is really related to enrollment challenges we were having in the past and that had been exacerbated by COVID-19.”

Although officials at CR say enrollment is difficult to predict, HSU’s expects a 20 percent decline in fall enrollment including a 30 percent decline for incoming freshman. HSU Vice President of Enrollment Management Dr. Jason Meriwether over the last few days has worked with five other administrators before producing an 11 page enrollment management report.

With higher education being one of the most highly affected by COVID-19, economists are struggling to predict the future economy and enrollment experts are struggling on what to expect in the next academic year.

President Tom Jackson of HSU and President Keith Flemer of CR worry about the big changes that are soon to come but they will continue to work on keeping both institutions strong and achievable.