COVID-19 Hits OSU Budget; $217 Million Shortfall Projected

The Board of Trustees for Oregon State University (OSU) approved on Friday, Aug. 14, the university’s plan for the upcoming academic year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing budget gap.   

The university’s projected budget shortfall has increased from $124 million to $217 million statewide, according to OSU’s Newsroom. That includes all university campuses, public services, restricted funds, and auxiliary units as well as athletics and housing and dining services. 

These budget challenges reflect the Pac-12 Conference postponing all sports competitions through the end of 2020 and the expectation that 90 percent of this fall’s Corvallis campus instruction and about 50 percent at OSU-Cascades in Bend will be remote. 

Board Chairwoman Rani Borkar said, “In the weeks and months ahead, the board will continue to work with university leaders as OSU responds to the pandemic and the impacts to the budget evolve.” 

Steps to reduce the budget shortfall include reducing spending on facilities improvements and the strategic use of reserve funds. Spending restrictions will include lowering personnel costs through temporary salary reductions, workshare layoffs and leaves-without-pay in lieu of layoff. 

The trustees plan will continue to lower on-site density until a safe and viable vaccine for COVID-19 has been created and widely adopted. OSU President F. King Alexander told the Newsroom that the university’s plan and its implementation continues to adapt as the pandemic evolves. 

“We needed to give our faculty, staff and students a heads-up now on how they could prepare for fall term over the next four to six weeks,” Alexander said. “We have a month ahead to watch, learn and adjust our implementation.” 

The board also heard university plans on the transition to an OSU-run police force on Jan. 1, and on how to advance better support to Black students, faculty, and staff. OSU will also increase university student counseling, mental health, and support services. 

By Sally K Lehman