Bowdoin College campus earlier this month after students, who were on spring break, were told they would not be returning to campus.

BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College officials project the college, already short roughly $6.4 million, will lose “well over” $8 million by the end of June. 

The losses account for about 5% of the college’s $175.8 million operating budget, and spokesperson Doug Cook said that number is expected to grow. 

The primary hit to the college’s finances stems from room-and-board refunds paid to students, as well as financial assistance for low-income students with COVID-19 related expenses like travel, Cook wrote in an email Friday. According to the school’s website, the minimum reimbursement for room and board was $2,500 for students receiving aid, and the Bowdoin Orient reported the maximum was $4,125. The college did not make any adjustments to tuition payments. 

There also were expenses related to the switch to remote learning. 

“There are certainly consequences related to these losses, particularly if they continue to mount,” Cook said. 

Bowdoin officials have instituted a hiring freeze and revised departmental budgets to limit expenditures. 


Changes to the budget will make for some difficult choices, but Cook said President Clayton Rose is primarily concerned with preserving jobs and “maintaining the excellence of Bowdoin’s programs.” 

Bowdoin was allocated $1.12 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress. The act provided nearly $14 billion for higher education. 

According to the Portland Press Herald, Maine schools received about $41 million in aid total. 

Colby College and Bates College, both comparable in size to Bowdoin, received $1.24 million and $953,516 respectively, while the University of Maine System received $17.2 million. 

Under the rules, half the funds, about $562,000, must go toward low-income students and the other half can be used to help defray costs incurred with the transition to remote-learning.

According to Cook, Bowdoin officials have not yet decided whether to accept the funds. 


Many of the country’s wealthiest and most elite colleges have decided to forgo their allotments after significant pushback from politicians and the public. 

Harvard University recently rejected its $8.7 million package, citing “intense focus from politicians.”

According to Politico, Stanford University also withdrew its application for $7.4 million in aid, Princeton rejected its $2.4 million share and Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania followed suit. This, the media outlet reported, means the nation’s five wealthiest private schools all decided to turn down their allocated stimulus funds. 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said schools with large endowments should not apply for funds so that more money can be given to students who need support. 

Schools like Princeton, Stanford, Yale and Harvard have endowments between $26 and $30 billion, while Harvard’s is about $40 billion. 

Bowdoin College has a $1.74 billion endowment, but according to Cook, a strong endowment does not equate to a strong cash flow. 


“It is not one big pot of money or a savings account,” he said. “The endowment is permanent, donor-restricted capital that provides a steady stream of funds in support of Bowdoin’s current mission,” he said. 

The college’s endowment is made up of about 1,700 different funds, about half of which can only be used for student aid. 

“So, it’s not something we can dip into any time we want,” he said.

The endowment is the college’s second-largest source of revenue and like other accounts, is expected to see “significant losses” by the end of the year. Officials won’t know the extent of those losses until late this summer, Cook said. 

Other impacts of coronavirus are likely to be seen later. 

It is too early to say how the pandemic might impact enrollment, as students have until May 1 to decide, Cook said. 

Meanwhile, two groups are exploring if and how to transition back to campus in the fall. 

One group is looking at what issues will need to be addressed and potential changes in behavior and the other is working to develop a more long term remote model. 

Construction on the Schiller Coastal Studies Center and the Harpswell Street Apartments are continuing, but Cook said earlier that projects on Mills Hall and the Center for Arctic Studies have been halted, and no there is currently no timeline for when they may restart.

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