ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The University of Central Florida is operating on the assumption that campus will open in the fall, according to the president. During a virtual board of trustees meeting, he announced the university will be taking a large financial toll due to the pandemic.
UCF announced it will take a nearly $49 million hit due to COVID-19, through August. The announcement came just days after Alexander Cartwright took his post as new UCF President.
Cartwright said they've been cutting costs through a hiring freeze, travel reductions and restrictions on raises.
Unsure about the future enrollment predictions, Cartwright remained optimistic as he spoke to the board of trustees.
"We don't know what will happen or who will show up in the fall. We are about 10% higher than we were last year, but we need to be realistic and think about if we had a reduction and what that will look like," said Cartwright.
The University is getting some assistance, receiving $51 million through the CARES Act, a federally funded relief package. The university says half will go to students for emergency aid and the other half will offset some losses.
One issue some students are bringing up is that many international students don’t qualify to receive any of that federal funding. The university said it started a separate fund to help those students.
“We, in a very short period of time, raised more than $100,000 in donations student emergency fund, student housing insecurity fund, and employee relief fund since last month,” said Cartwright.
News 6 asked UCF communications how the student aid will be distributed and received a statement:
"We are working expeditiously to finalize an equitable distribution plan and expect to share more details about the funding distribution process with the campus community soon."
News 6 also asked if students will be receiving any additional tuition refunds and received the following statement:
"UCF does not plan to provide tuition refunds as classes have continued to be delivered online, but we are providing housing and dining refunds."
Thursday, the university discussed three potential scenarios for the fall semester ranging from an open campus with some social distancing, to full distance learning.
The scenarios can be found on the board of trustees meeting agenda and presentation by clicking here.
During the virtual meeting, trustee Dr. Joseph Harrington voiced his concerns about how the decision to move forward will be made.
"I am very concerned having had a loss in my own family from a single casual accidental exposure. This is nothing to joke about and when I see people throngs of people walking on beaches and at the same time seeing data about infection-rate, that is a shocking figure. We need to understand this better. What I have not heard very many people say is what is the criteria to choose between these things? Are we just going to follow the state even if they do something demonstrably dangerous?"
The president replied that he will be working with the board, university faculty and their crisis management team to create certain criteria they will use to make the final decision about how and when they will reopen the campus come fall.
“May is going to be a really important month for us. There’s going to be changes and we’re going to see a peak in this region, then we’ll be able to know better if we will be able to open in the fall or not. Right now, we are operating on the assumption we are opening in the fall unless we get data that shows things are out of control and we can’t. Right now we’re moving forward with assumption we are opening the campus in the fall,” said Cartwright.