The University of Wisconsin System estimates COVID-19 has cost campuses a net $318 million loss from last March through the end of 2020.
Never has a financial landscape like the one currently facing the System made a better case for giving campuses the authority to borrow, officials told the UW Board of Regents at a Thursday meeting, just days before the 2021-23 state budget process begins when Gov. Tony Evers unveils his proposal Feb. 16.
The System is unique in lacking borrowing ability, a constraint that is particularly challenging because of the short-term cash-flow problems the pandemic created.
UW-Madison sustained more than half of the System’s net losses, $176.5 million, since the pandemic hit last spring.
Its auxiliary units, or entities that normally are self-supporting and provide goods or services on campus, such as athletics, conference centers, housing, dining and parking, saw the biggest revenue losses. UW-Madison also returned $51 million of its budgeted funding back to the state.
COVID-19 has caused the “biggest financial disaster” the university has ever seen, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said.
Through federal stimulus money, furloughs, pay cuts for leadership, travel restrictions and targeted budget cuts to different units, Blank said she’s optimistic the financial gap can be resolved over the next two years. But she also renewed her case for giving the university borrowing authority.