DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > COVID-19 update May 6

COVID-19 update: Planning for fall quarter 2020 and beyond

Working together, bringing our best thinking to planning the way forward

COVID 19 update
The numbers marking the impact of COVID-19 are staggering:

  • 3.5 million cases and 246,000 deaths around the world;
  • 1.17 million cases and 68,000 deaths nationwide;
  • 58,000 cases in Illinois where 2,559 residents have lost their lives; and
  • across the country, more than 30 million have lost their jobs in the past six weeks.

It is disruption on an order we have not experienced in well over a generation.

Such disruption makes change inevitable. Change can be unwelcome and rapid transition brought on by the drastic change can be unnerving.  We have barely settled into new routines as we face the questions: What happens next? What must be done?

Much is still unknown – to paraphrase Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 'the virus has much to tell us'. As a result, planning a way forward means identifying a number of possible scenarios and developing plans appropriate for responding to each. We are doing our best thinking to face new challenges and a number of teams are currently developing plans to address fall quarter and beyond. As Vincent de Paul, no stranger to turbulent times, said, we need to do all this with 'a heart filled with compassion.'

Our planning principles are straightforward. This work, informed by our Vincentian mission and a commitment to transparency, shared responsibility, and trust building in difficult times, will:

  • continue to take steps to ensure the health and safety of the university community and of the communities where we study, work and live;
  • ensure that our diverse community of learners including first-generation and those from underrepresented communities have access to our nationally ranked academic programs and support services;
  • support and maximize student success;
  • strengthen our university – preparing the university not only for Fall 2020 but, more importantly, strategically position us for the next 125 years.

Some steps we have taken to date have come with a cost. The university refunded approximately $14 million for on-campus housing, meal plans and student activity fees. Student employees were guaranteed income from their campus jobs, even though many of them were not able to work in a remote capacity. With the support of the Board of Trustees, the university also canceled a planned tuition rate increase. The canceled tuition increase means a $13 million savings for students and their families along with a commensurate decline in previously planned tuition revenues.

To prepare for a range of possible scenarios, university leadership is seeking ways to give DePaul more fiscal flexibility to address what the future may hold. For example, we have slowed down discretionary spending and instituted a hiring freeze on faculty and staff positions for the foreseeable future.  A committee comprised of DePaul's president, interim provost and executive vice president will consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

While uncertainties abound, regarding the weeks ahead, what we do know is:

  • We will continue to work in a work-from-home mode through June 12, operating as an integral part of the overall local and state response plans and following CDC/WHO guidelines.
  • While the university has experienced unexpected revenue declines as well as some expense increases due to the COVID crisis, the institution's financial outlook is sound for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2020. The modest operating surplus we expect to generate this fiscal year is due in large part to a donor's very generous one-time gift, which we recently received. Our early financial contingency planning for next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2020, assumes a 15 percent decline in net revenue. This translates to an approximately $80 million decrease in net revenue.
  • As previously announced, for next academic year the university has canceled a planned tuition increase and has also significantly increased institutionally funded financial aid as measures to help address affordability concerns.
  • We are currently planning to minimize our footprint on campus this fall. We are tracking the progression of COVID-19 to determine to what degree social distancing and remote learning will be required in the fall to safeguard the health of our community.  Our preference will be to utilize our campuses to the fullest extent possible, but in accordance with prevailing guidance from health authorities.  We are currently engaged in a thoughtful and deliberate planning process and expect to be in a position to make an announcement regarding our plans for the fall as early as June 15, 2020.

As I think about the future of the university, I am more motivated and encouraged than I am concerned. This is not to suggest that I am unaware of the difficulties we are facing, and the challenging decisions we will need to make as a community as we progress through this global health pandemic. Indeed, our most challenging days may very well still be ahead of us.

And, yet, as I contemplate the actions we will need to take, and the path we will set for the future of our university, I remain hopeful for one important reason—you.  You—individually.  You—collectively.  What makes our university so special, and, in fact more important than ever before, is you. You have shown initiative, resilience, flexibility, and most importantly compassion.

As we work to preserve our commitment to offering a high-quality academic experience for our students, the difficult decisions we will confront in the days and weeks ahead will require courage, sacrifice and compassion. 

I ask that you join me in acknowledging that we will not be able to return to a DePaul University as we once knew it. Many of you are familiar with St. Vincent's thought of the inventiveness of love even to infinity.  We will be called on to be inventive, creative, and innovative to respond to changes in the world as a result of COVID-19. Join me in committing to building on our strengths —Catholic, Vincentian, urban, service-oriented, diverse— to plan not just for the fall quarter of next academic year, but to help lay the cornerstone of what will be the nation's model for urban higher education. We will strengthen our focus on delivering top-ranked academic programs to a diverse community of learners while continuing to serve our marginalized communities and providing access to higher education for populations traditionally under-represented in American postsecondary education.

As normal fades, we face the task of redefining and rebuilding DePaul. The moment will test our resolve, and we will meet the test, together. We are up to this challenge, I know that for certain. Our community is strong because of you, each of you, and because of our strongly felt shared values.

We are DePaul.