Planning for the Spring 2021 Semester

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May 6, 2020

Important financial and academic updates

Dear La Salle Family:

If it is true, as C.S. Lewis claimed, that “hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny,” then we are truly on the road to something extraordinary. As we approach the conclusion of our academic year, I appreciate the opportunity to write to you with admiration and gratitude for all that you are doing. Our students are completing a semester that has tested their mettle in every way imaginable, while our faculty and staff persist in offering their efforts, innovation, and resolve to support that academic work.

“Challenging” does not begin to capture the circumstances that we have been navigating, individually and collectively, over the past two months. However, in the midst of a global pandemic, I have witnessed first-hand the potential for greatness that exists within our La Salle University community. With every small victory and generous gesture, we are reminded of what it means to be in Lasallian community with one another, together, and by association, and I remain grateful for those small but profound reminders.

Like so many other institutions of higher education, COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our operations, and its reach is being felt by all members of our Lasallian family. While the full extent of the COVID-19 threat to our fiscal situation is not yet clear, we know that this threat will be significant and long-lasting.

When we look solely at the Spring 2020 semester, we can confirm several direct financial impacts of this crisis:

  • The University issued $3.5 million in refunds to students whose access to University housing and dining services was interrupted by a necessary move to remote instruction.
  • The NCAA, in the wake of cancelled winter championships and spring athletic seasons, distributed a reduced level of financial support to its member institutions than what it had initially projected. As a result, the University received a disbursement from the NCAA that was more than $500,000 less than what had been forecast for this fiscal period.
  • The University sustained annual-giving losses in excess of $1 million as a result of cancelled events, including the annual Day of Giving and the President’s Cup golf tournament.
  • The University continues to sustain substantial losses on its investment portfolio, both in the unrestricted and restricted funds.

The University received a federal government appropriation under the CARES Act of approximately $4.2 million. According to the federal guidelines, one half of these funds must be distributed directly to students and cannot be used to offset university losses and expenses that were a direct result of this pandemic. The remaining funds, approximately $2 million, are intended to offset those losses and additional expenses incurred as a direct result of COVID-19.

In addition to the impacts noted above, we also are forecasting additional millions of dollars that the University will forego due to lost revenue opportunities. While we are taking every possible step to ensure a robust entering class of first-year students and tranfers this fall, and support the return of our current students, these are obviously volatile times for our students and their families and we are anticipating further impacts to enrollment.

As good stewards of this University, we must take the appropriate actions, however difficult, to secure the future of La Salle as we guide this community through this unprecedented crisis. While those actions necessarily begin with an acknowledgement of the uncertainties of our financial situation, we must also act to consider all impacts of the decisions before us, and to make and execute those decisions in a thoughtful, informed, and prudent way. Perhaps most importantly of all, those decisions must be taken, and implemented, in a way that aligns with our Lasallian mission and identity.

As such, the University has taken the following steps:

  • I, along with the members of the Executive Cabinet, have taken a temporary 10 percent salary reduction;
  • all vacant positions are being closely evaluated and only critical hires will be made at this time;
  • through the implementation of a spend-control tower, all discretionary spending in excess of $100 will require the approval of a vice president;
  • and the University has postponed all capital projects, except for those deemed as critical and essential.

These operational changes are aimed at preserving the core functions of the University and our ability to deliver a high-impact education to our students. Whatever lies ahead, we are bracing for challenging circumstances and, quite frankly, a reimagining of all of our academic and business operations. I am relieved that our extensive strategic planning work, begun long before the arrival of this coronavirus, has positioned La Salle as favorably as possible for these days that lie ahead. Many institutions are only now turning their focus to similar actions and are feeling the impact of a rapidly evolving timeline.

I know that the uncertainty of this situation is stressful for everyone, and that some of you also have faced other direct impacts of COVID-19 in your personal lives. As I have said previously, we remain committed to maintaining all full-time employees through at least May 31, the end of the fiscal year. It is my hope that this commitment has allowed for some relief amidst the strain of this situation.

Onward to Fall

Many of you have asked about our plans for the fall. Will we be working remotely? Will students be on campus? Will all or some of our courses be delivered remotely? What about fall sports?

While you may have heard that some colleges and universities have chosen to confirm what will unfold on their campuses this fall, we are taking the position that, at least for La Salle, it is not yet possible to predict these outcomes with any degree of reasonable confidence, given the huge set of uncontrollable variables.

We have a strong intention to return to face-to-face instruction in the fall semester and are planning accordingly. We have a robust continuity and recovery team in place at the University, receiving input from faculty, staff, and students, that is developing multiple scenarios for the fall and beyond. There are a number of guiding priorities that are framing this work and scenario analysis, including:

  1. the health and safety of our students, colleagues, and any visitors;
  2. the ability to deliver on our mission promise of delivering high-impact teaching and learning;
  3. decisions based on the best available data and information;
  4. our commitment to a business model that is sustainable;
  5. and the value of communicating as soon as possible a predictable and flexible plan for moving forward.

What we know is La Salle University will continue to welcome new and returning students into our community this fall, as we have done every year since 1863. While some of the characteristics of our community have changed over the past 157 years, and while they may shift again this fall, the essence of a personal, practical, and transformative learning experience that prepares our students for lives of success, purpose, and impact will never change. The actions that we are taking, as outlined above, will ensure that this core essence of our community remains intact, even in the midst of difficult decisions.

As our plans for the fall and beyond gain greater clarity, I will continue to communicate with all of you. I would ask that you also continue to work to support one another and our students, as we focus on how best to deliver a transformative learning experience rooted in the highest ideals of our Lasallian charism, mission, and identity.

St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.

Sincerely,

Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D.
University President