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COVID-19 to cost University of Illinois campuses $270M this year, budget projects

The costs come from added COVID-19 precautions and testing, as well as lost revenue from lost housing and other fees.

A sign advertises COVID-19 testing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Sun-Times staff

The University of Illinois System Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a budget for the 2021 fiscal year that includes a $270 million projected loss due to COVID-19.

The $6.74 billion budget is about $230 million lower than the previous year’s budget of $6.97 billion, officials said in a press release. The university system plans to use $121.3 million in reserve funds to address some of the COVID-19 costs.

“We believe this spending plan will allow us to maintain the sense of momentum and progress we have built while balancing the need to both keep our students, faculty and staff safe and use resources responsibly in this difficult period,” U. of I. System President Tim Killeen said in the release.

Around half of the $270 million impact comes from the costs of student and employee COVID-19 testing, quarantining coronavirus-positive students, personal protective equipment and transitioning to remote learning, officials said. The other half will come from lost revenue for housing and dining services, conferences and events, concessions and merchandise sales and on-campus service fees.

However, the budget also included a 20.4% increase in scholarships and financial aid, to $402 million, which the statement said demonstrates “the system’s ongoing commitment to greater affordability and accessibility.”

The release stated that part of its 2022 fiscal year budget request includes $15 million more towards increasing scholarships and $10 million for recruiting more faculty.

Other projections for the 2021 budget included an increase in tuition revenue and state funding, increased funding for the system’s hospital in Chicago, increased grant funds, donations, medical service revenue and campus operation funds, and decreased payments for employee healthcare and pension benefits from the previous year.

For the eight year in a row, enrollment at the schools three campuses set a record, 90,343 students.