In the spring 2020 semester, Boise State lost a total of $14 million in revenues from refunds and a reduction from auxiliaries, like the Bronco Shop, Morrison Center and Extra Mile Arena, according to a letter sent by President Marlene Tromp.
Tromp outlines a list of reasons for the fall decline in revenue including enrollment, athletics, reduction in revenues, state budget cuts, COVID-related expenses and additional unexpected costs.
The university anticipated around a 3% increase in students pre-COVID, and instead had a 0.5% increase in total student enrollment and a 6% decrease in new Idaho undergraduates students.
“Many families experienced job loss and either couldn’t afford to send a student to school or needed the student to help support the family,” Tromp wrote. “We saw an increase in out-of-state students. This is likely because many institutions (for example the UC and CSU in California) remained primarily remote, and students who wanted an on-campus experience saw Boise State as a compelling opportunity.”
The official “student census” will be finalized in October and will give the university a better understanding of how each student affects their funding and revenue. Students from out of state, Idaho residents, WUE-eligible students and students in different programs pay different tuition, meaning the state gives funding to the university differently based on the student population.
Boise State Athletics postponed their fall season after a decision was made by the Mountain West in mid-August. Losses from athletics were predicted to range from $10 million to $15 million, even with savings generated by the absence of travel and other costs for competitions, according to Tromp.
A plan to furlough and reduce the compensation of the Athletic Department staff has been implemented. Continuing costs for the semester have been student-athletes remaining on scholarship, continuing training and preparing, and coaches and support staff continuing their work.
“Already, Athletics has had to make some very difficult and painful decisions to balance their budget,” Tromp wrote. “Serious financial challenges remain for our beloved sports programs, and those must be addressed.”
Reduction in Revenues
Money loss from auxiliary areas has hit the university hard, Tromp noted if there is no football season this year it could be a loss of $20 million to $30 million. Auxiliaries include the Bronco Shop, the Morrison Center, the athletic arenas, housing, dining and parking services.
“For example, when the Bronco Shop couldn’t serve customers, they couldn’t generate the revenue to support their staff,” Tromp wrote. “As long as the Morrison Center can’t host performances, the same remains true for them. When we don’t have football games that bring our amazing fan base to our community, many of our units suffer a loss of sales.”
Although housing, dining and parking services have all lost revenue, the university deems them critical to students and accounts the amenities to affect the budget as well.
State Budget Cuts
The university received a 2% budget cut from the state of Idaho last year, and made reductions to the budget. However, after tax cuts from the legislature this year, the university is being asked to complete a 5% one-time hold-back for the fiscal year of 2021, equalling around $5.4 million, according to Tromp.
“Further, we have been told not to anticipate state funding for CEC (Change in Employee Compensation), increased employee benefit costs, enrollment increases for next year,” Tromp wrote. “This significantly reduces our resources to support our most valuable asset for our mission: the employees that make our university great.”
With the addition of a new public health office and staff, team of healthcare providers specific to helping support isolating and quarantining students, upgraded technology, additional staff and faculty training, and opening a brand-new, region-wide COVID-19 testing center, the university is finding ways to balance the budget.
“Utilizing the Morrison Center and Extra Mile Arena has made many socially distanced classes possible, but they cost more to use as classrooms than the smaller, standard rooms they replaced. These changes made our success this fall possible and were critical to our enrollment, but they also required significant investment,” Tromp wrote.
According to Tromp, the American Journal of Managed Care is reporting that seven out of 10 employees are experiencing the current time as the most stressful period of their entire career. Due to this data, the university is offering additional counseling and care services.
“Our own community has indicated the impact of these stressors on them. We have a responsibility to respond,” Tromp wrote.
Other COVID-Related Costs
The uncertainty of the future is creating challenges for Boise State to predict whether there will be more unseen expenses. Both continuing online learning and being in person for classes, has created difficulty in deciding whether or not there will be additional financial burdens to the budget.
“We owe a real debt of gratitude to our reintegration committee for making an on-campus experience possible, as well as the efforts of many people to keep campus safe,” Tromp wrote. “But we don’t know what student behavior to anticipate, if, for example, we have to transition temporarily to remote learning (as Notre Dame did a few weeks ago).”
Leaders from faculty and staff of all divisions and departments on campus were asked to work with their areas to develop a possible plan for any budget challenges that may arise, and share with Tromp what the outcome could be.
“The financial challenges we are facing are serious but could have been far graver,” Tromp wrote. “I am incredibly proud of the ways in which our whole community has responded to all the difficulties we have faced since March.”