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Financial Update for the Emerson Community

Dear Emerson Community,

As an unprecedented Fall semester comes to a close, I want to thank all of you for your participation in ensuring the College remains healthy and financially stable. While the pandemic persists and there are still many unknowns, our ability to protect jobs, avoid furloughs and layoffs—which were prevalent across all sectors — and preserve the mission of the College, has been a direct result of your care and cooperation.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you a transcript of the presentation I gave on the College’s financial picture at the November Staff and Faculty Forums. The complete text is available on Emerson Today, but here are a few salient points:

·      We ended last fiscal year (July 2019-June 2020) with a slight surplus, despite the significant revenue losses and new expenses we incurred this past spring as a result of COVID-19. We achieved this through halting all capital projects and shutting down the campus almost completely.

·      This year, so far, the College is on track to realize our most optimistic financial scenario for FY21 – around $30 million in lost revenue, and millions in additional COVID-related expenses. To date, we have committed more than $5 million to COVID testing alone. Keep in mind, however, that testing will increase in volume and frequency next semester.

·      In response to the projected losses and new expenses, we have implemented a number of mitigation measures: a partial hiring freeze, departmental and college-level cost-cutting, suspension of sabbaticals and presidential leaves, a pause on retirement contributions and pay raises, and pay cuts for senior leadership.

·      We are hopeful that these mitigation measures will allow us to break even for FY21, but that “best-case scenario” is entirely dependent on enrollment remaining robust for the Spring semester, students opting for on-campus residency at a similar rate to the Fall semester, and the community’s ability to maintain a low campus positivity rate.

·      Our top priority continues to be avoiding layoffs and furloughs, and we are doing everything in our power to be able to commit to that for the duration of the academic year. However, we are too early in the fiscal year to be able to consider reinstating retirement contributions or pay raises. I want to thank the College’s staff and faculty unions for their partnership in establishing the cost-cutting measures that have helped us project jobs.

The phrase I use in relation to our financial prospects for FY21 and FY22 is “cautiously optimistic.” The virus is resurging in every corner of the country, widespread vaccination is still months away, and communities are certain to feel more economic and personal hardship as a result of the pandemic. However, the Emerson community—from our students who took difficult measures to keep each other healthy, to faculty and staff who made innumerable sacrifices, to alumni and parents who contributed to COVID emergency funds—has proven that it is willing to pull together to ensure that the College’s foundations remain solid. For that reason, I have every reason to hope that we will emerge from this pandemic in a position of strength.

Thank you again for everything you’ve done and continue to do to keep your fellow students, staff, and faculty safe and secure. I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season.

Paul Dworkis
Vice President for Administration and Finance 

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