COVID-19 Update: College Finances

Dear Scripps Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As we begin our third week of remote instruction, it has been a pleasure to hear about the robust learning and engagement taking place in formal and informal online forums. I am immensely grateful for the work ethic, dedication, and creativity of Scripps students, faculty, and staff during this period of disruption and uncertainty. Your willingness to adapt to new ways of learning, working, and communicating is remarkable, especially against the backdrop of rising concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on our individual and collective health and well-being.

Refunds, Tuition, and Fees

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 crisis this semester, the College continues to prioritize educational progress and student experience through rigorous remote instruction and extensive virtual programming. Although spring semester tuition remains unchanged, the College has processed pro-rated refunds for room and board for students required to vacate residence halls and suspend their meal plans. We are currently reviewing accounts of students who were studying abroad and hope to have an update for those families soon.

Some questions have been raised about the status of fees the College collects, including fees for certain courses, the commencement fee, and the student body fee. Upon evaluating the various course fees, the College has determined that those funds have been or will be expended to cover the costs of materials and/or to deliver on-campus and remote instruction this semester. The commencement fee for seniors will be used to cover the costs of the rescheduled ceremony. Although the College collects the student body fees, they are transferred to the Scripps Association of Students (SAS). SAS distributes those funds to various student clubs and organizations in a process SAS oversees. Students should contact SAS directly for information about the plans for any residual funds.

Financial Outlook

Although I am buoyed by the community’s response to the turbulence resulting from this health crisis, I must also share my concerns about the substantial negative impact on the College’s budget to date and for the near future.

The transition we experienced this semester was costly. Room and board refunds, cancellation of campus events, investment in technology to support classes in their new form, expenses related to cleaning, moving, storage, and emergency travel, and a decline in the value of the endowment and in charitable giving have resulted in lost revenue that typically comprises a significant portion of the College’s operational budget. Further, summer activity has become an important source of funds for our academic year programming, and it appears that most, if not all, summer events will be canceled this year. As we look toward the fall, we anticipate an increase in requests for financial aid as the economic impact of the pandemic will affect many families’ financial position. To mitigate the financial risks posed by current circumstances, the senior team and I have assessed the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the College’s finances and identified the following measures to reduce expenditures in the current and upcoming fiscal year:

  • Cease hiring for new and vacant positions;
  • Moratorium on salary increases;
  • Reduction in compensation for the senior staff and me;
  • Suspension of non-essential expenditures in the current fiscal year, and a 10% budget cut for fiscal year 2021.

My goal in sharing this information is not to create additional anxiety or panic, but to reinforce the need for a plan to continue to fulfill our core mission and support the Scripps community until we can resume normal operations. Our highest priorities are to sustain academic programming, support student success, and minimize pay disruption to our employees, all of whom are crucial to our community. Unfortunately, we must also consider scenarios in which the fall semester is delayed or disrupted, resulting in additional losses, and if that occurs, additional measures will be necessary. The College will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the months ahead and to reevaluate our financial projections as more data become available.

I believe that the above actions, while difficult, will preserve the College’s financial stability in the short-term and position us to recover fully when on-campus instruction resumes. For many of us, this period of distance and isolation has seemed interminable. But it will end. We don’t know exactly when, but there is a future when our students, faculty, and staff will be back on campus, learning together, enjoying each other, and experiencing everything that is wonderful about Scripps. Until that time, I know the indomitable spirit of Scripps remains intact.

I hope that you and your families stay safe and healthy, and I send my heartfelt wishes for strength and comfort to those who have been stricken directly or indirectly by COVID-19.


Lara Tiedens