The University of Maine System is anticipating nearly $13 million in room and board costs will be returned to students who were forced to leave the system’s seven campuses this semester because of the coronavirus outbreak.

That number represents about 2 percent of the system’s $553 million revenue budget, and Chancellor Dannel Malloy told Maine’s congressional delegation in a letter last week the virus is already having a “devastating financial impact” on public universities.

“We estimate our short-term revenue losses to be in excess of $20 million and the long-term ramifications are much greater but impossible to quantify at this time,” the letter said.

Students in the university system resumed their classes online Wednesday after the system, like other colleges and universities around the country, sent all students home earlier this month to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The UMaine system also announced Wednesday it would extend the deadline for students to choose pass/fail options for their course work.

In his letter to the delegation, Malloy said the $12.8 million in room and board refunds, made on a prorated basis, make up the bulk of the short-term revenue losses the system is expecting to see from the virus. Universities will also need to reimburse shortened travel study programs and are anticipating modest losses of tuition revenue as some students drop courses that have had to move online.


The temporary closure of Maine’s two casinos will also mean a reduction in gaming revenue, a source of about $3 million in scholarship money for UMaine students each year.

Members of the congressional delegation said they are aware of the virus’ impact on the university system and are working to secure relief in a federal economic stimulus package.

“This is a difficult time for students and staff alike,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree in a statement. “In the third coronavirus response bill, we’re working to include much-needed emergency aid for students as they tackle the many challenging aspects of this transition, including the switch to virtual education.”

Jeff Sobotko, a spokesman for Sen. Angus King, said the senator is “aware of the request and working to make sure there is support for institutions of higher learning in the package.”

Christopher Knight, a spokesman for Sen. Susan Collins, said in a statement Collins has spoken with Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the University of Maine at Orono, and other Maine college presidents about revenue losses, the need for emergency aid and other support.

“She was instrumental in ensuring that the Phase 3 package included direct funding to institutions of higher learning, which can be used to offset COVID-19 related expenses,” Knight said. “Senator Collins also championed additional provisions that will ease administrative burdens on colleges and universities during this challenging time.”


Nick Zeller, a spokesman for Rep. Jared Golden, said meanwhile that Golden knows recovery from the coronavirus will depend largely on a skilled workforce educated through the university system.

“He is glad to see the inclusion of funding in the proposed ‘Phase III’ legislation to help university systems like UMaine address losses associated with the coronavirus, but knows this may only be the first step,” Zeller said.

The university system is continuing to pay federal work study program students, including those who are no longer on campus, and will pay non-federal work study students through April 4.

Regular employees, which include faculty, hourly and salaried staff and administrators who are not temporary hires, will continue to receive normal pay through April 4, regardless of whether they are able to work full-time.

In a statement Wednesday, Malloy said while campus operations and revenue have changed dramatically, discussion of layoffs is premature.

“We are using this time to assess the potential impact of federal disaster aid and state appropriation decisions on university budgets,” Malloy said. He said the university is also looking at opportunities to transition employees to work related to the public health response under a new agreement with the state to expedite the use of university resources in emergencies.

Lorne Smith, a business agent for the Teamsters Local Union No. 340, the union representing the system’s service and maintenance workers, said the union is anticipating short-term layoffs and is hoping the system will ensure continued access to healthcare for any employees who might be affected.

“They do want to take care of their people, which we appreciate,” Smith said. “It’s just about trying to find that balance of what works best.”

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