UW System campuses show $317.7 million in lost revenue, added expenses from COVID-19 in 2020

New figures show the University of Wisconsin System saw $317.7 million in lost revenue and additional expenses between March and December as universities continue to weather the widespread budgetary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.



a statue in front of a building:


© Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“This past year has been the biggest financial disaster that anyone at UW-Madison has ever seen,” UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the UW Regents Thursday.

More than half of those losses — $176.5 million — was sustained by UW-Madison alone. UW-Madison continues to suffer large losses from declines in the use of its facilities and campus services. Between March and December, the university’s athletics department lost $45.2 million, housing and dining lost $52 million, the student union lost $14 million, parking services lost $18 million and campus conference centers lost $7 million.



Camp Randall Stadium on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in Madison on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Big Ten league officials announced this weeks football and all other fall sports will be shut down and moved to the second semester of the 2020-21 academic year because of ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. - Photo by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


© Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Camp Randall Stadium on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in Madison on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Big Ten league officials announced this weeks football and all other fall sports will be shut down and moved to the second semester of the 2020-21 academic year because of ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. – Photo by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“This past year has been the biggest financial disaster that anyone at UW-Madison has ever seen,” UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the UW Regents Thursday.

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Blank provided more current insight into the flagship’s financial situation.

She put the university’s total COVID-19 costs and losses at $319 million, a number that has been offset by monthly staff furloughs, salary cuts of 15{23996c8f5258275f450f40d5a867c22ad72c04895f28059581bc525cc6cb4bd0} for senior administrators and many other cost-saving measures. Accounting for those savings and federal stimulus money, the university still has a budget gap of about $35 million. Resolving that gap will require budget cuts over the next two years, Blank said.

Statewide, UW System data shows campuses experienced increased expenses between March and December that included $49.8 million for student financial aid, $31 million for COVID-19 testing, $7.2 million for personal protective equipment, $5.3 million for technology investments, $3.8 million for cleaning services and $1.9 million for telecommuting costs.

The UW System also returned a portion of its budgeted funding to the state: $40.8 million in the 2020 fiscal year and $45.4 million in fiscal year 2021. That was in keeping with Gov. Tony Evers’ attempts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

UW System interim President Tommy Thompson has requested a $95.7 million budget increase in the next state budget, an amount he’s equated to replenishing the amount the system returned to the state in total.

Evers will unveil his 2021-23 state budget Feb. 16.

RELATED: Tommy Thompson seeks 3.5{23996c8f5258275f450f40d5a867c22ad72c04895f28059581bc525cc6cb4bd0} UW System budget increase to expand Bucky’s Tuition Promise, fund other initiatives

Losses offset by aid, cuts, furloughs

Overall, the total impact of COVID-19 on UW campuses was $466.7 million, according to a presentation UW System Vice President for Finance Sean Nelson made to the Board of Regents’ Business and Finance committee Thursday.

However, the system’s net financial impact drops to $317.7 million when factoring in $149 million in federal aid that the campuses have received from various relief funds, including the money campuses got through the CARES stimulus package.

RELATED: Coronavirus has cost UW System $168 million in lost revenue and added expenses as of April 10

There is more financial help on the way. The campuses will receive $101.3 million through the latest federal stimulus package, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was announced in December.

Nelson said the universities have yet to receive guidance on how they will be able to use those funds. Also, the money can only be used to offset losses that occur in the 2021 calendar year.

In total, UW campuses have received $297.5 million in federal COVID-19 aid to date, both through the federal government directly and through the state Department of Administration’s distribution of federal CARES funds. 

However, $31.1 million of that federal funding was specifically for COVID-19 testing efforts and $94.2 million was earmarked for student financial aid.

Statewide, ongoing employee furloughs saved the UW System $52 million and restrictions on travel saved $32 million through the end of December.

Contact Devi Shastri at 414-224-2193 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @DeviShastri.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ‘Financial disaster’: UW System campuses show $317.7 million in lost revenue, added expenses from COVID-19 in 2020

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