Dear Campus Community,
As we prepare for a return to normal campus operations for the next academic year, which will include face-to-face instruction, full residence halls, and a complement of student events and activities, I am pleased to share the report of the Fall Planning Group, which will serve as a framework for our campus operational plan for the fall semester. The report offers a detailed operational guide and recommendations for re-establishing a robust living-learning environment that ensures the health and well-being of our campus community.
Our efforts will focus on offering students a full residential, in-person college experience in September safely. We will require all undergraduate and graduate students who wish to live or learn or conduct research on campus or access campus resources to be fully vaccinated prior to the beginning of the fall semester, on the basis of expected additional state, federal and legal guidance and vaccine availability, and subject to religious and disability accommodations pursuant to state and federal law. Evidence to date concerning the present and expected approval status and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines supports the university’s position. In addition, given our goal to have fall 2021 be as close to pre-pandemic times as possible, there is an operational imperative that faculty and staff who have been performing their duties remotely transition back to on-campus work. Accordingly, all faculty and staff are strongly encouraged and recommended to get vaccinated prior to the beginning of the fall semester. While recognizing the potential value of working remotely for some future operations, for this fall all employees will be considered on-site, and only hybrid or remote if approved by a unit’s vice chancellor. Further details on these fundamental aspects of our approach for the fall can be read in the full report.
The resumption of campus operations will be aided by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), established as part of the federal government’s $1.9 trillion COVID-relief American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in March. HEERF provides direct one-time federal funding to the campus and to our students and will be pivotal in the campus’s recovery from the profound effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic and the ensuing transition to remote learning and reduced campus operations, including residence life, dining, and other auxiliary services, resulted in more than $200 million in lost revenue, leaving the campus with a projected $9 million deficit for FY21. While we are confident that the worst of this crisis is behind us and, bolstered by the federal support provided in HEERF, we are planning for a normal FY22, there remains uncertainty about how quickly we will return to the baseline revenues we experienced in previous years.
The HEERF funds are designated separately for student aid and institutional needs. The first allocation of HEERF funds (HEERF II) was received by the campus in late March 2021 and the second allocation (HEERF III) has not been distributed but is expected to be received by the campus over the next few months.
|UMass Amherst HEERF II & III|
* Estimated, not yet available as of April 2021
The institutional portion of the HEERF federal funds will aid the campus in recovering from the pandemic in a number of ways, including:
- Enable the second consecutive year of an in-state tuition freeze
- Address the $9 million budget deficit resulting from the loss of FY21 revenue
- Continue into FY22 the health and safety measures to ensure COVID-19 remains in check
- Relax the current hiring freeze now and begin filling critical faculty and staff vacancies to provide the excellent instructional and campus-life experience that our students have come to expect
- Provide a contingency reserve to offset any potential FY22 revenue shortfalls that may occur as the campus returns to normal operations and avert any future furloughs
- Position the campus to resume pre-pandemic levels of research activity through investments in faculty start-ups and other one-time investments.
The HEERF student aid funds will enable us to provide direct financial relief to undergraduate and graduate students, offsetting some of the financial impacts of the pandemic and helping students achieve their educational goals. Federal regulations require that students with exceptional need be prioritized when the funds are distributed. These funds will supplement the campus-funded financial aid students already receive. We plan to distribute the bulk of the currently available $9.16M HEERF II funds to our undergraduate and graduate students in the coming weeks. We will make distributions of future HEERF III funds when those funds become available to us.
The passage of the American Rescue Plan, which includes the HEERF resources, was led nationally by the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. We are particularly thankful for the efforts of House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. At the state level we are so fortunate to have Senator Jo Comerford and Representative Mindy Domb advocating on Beacon Hill for increased funding for UMass.
I am also grateful to the members of the campus fall planning group, which included representatives from the Student Government Association, the Graduate Student Senate and the Faculty Senate, who so thoughtfully developed the recommendations for our fall operational plan.
Finally, I want to thank all of you, our students, faculty and staff, who persevered under the most challenging circumstances to deliver on the promise of this great university. It is because of you that we will emerge from this momentous crisis stronger and more resilient than ever.
Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy