Amherst College says shutdown will cost it $10M

  • Johnson Chapel on the Amherst College quad is seen last April.

Staff Writer
Published: 4/4/2020 6:43:32 PM

AMHERST — Costs associated with Amherst College’s decision to move instruction online, and sending students home for the remainder of the semester in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, could exceed $10 million, according to a memo sent to students and families by the president of the board of trustees.

In a letter titled “Rising to Meet the Challenge,” and addressed to the “Amherst Family” sent Tuesday, Andrew J. Nussbaum, a 1985 graduate, writes that maintaining the college’s excellence will require more than hard work, and that part of the effort will be replenishing the Amherst Fund and the COVID-19 Student Support Fund.

“Financially, the College remains secure, though we will experience substantial increased costs to honor the commitments we have made,” Nussbaum writes. “We estimate that the overall financial impact to the College of the move to remote learning may exceed the $10 million raised by the Amherst Fund last year.”

The Amherst Fund, made up of the Alumni Fund and The Parents’ Fund, raises money from 12,000 alumni, parents and friends. It is directed to the college’s top priorities, and makes up 5% of the total operating budget.

The college has a $2.4 billion endowment, though that is likely to be diminished in the current economic downturn.

The estimate on the impact of the COVID-19 response follows from a note sent to faculty and staff in late March by Kevin Weinman, the college’s chief financial and administrative officer, who outlined both one-time costs and disruptions to normal operations over the next several months.

The ways in which the college is racking up possibly $10 million in spending because of the pandemic in:

■Meeting the financial needs of students for travel costs and technological solutions needed for their return home and preparations for their online studies.

■Processing refunds for room and board for the second half of the spring semester.

■Augmenting salaries for essential staff required to work on campus.

■Promising that every student worker and staff member will have uninterrupted income for at least the remainder of the semester, no matter their circumstances.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at
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