UT-Austin estimates $152-$162 million in costs related to fall reopening, revenue losses in fiscal year 2020

Andrew Zhang

UT’s revenue losses and expenditures from COVID-19 could total $152 to $162 million by the end of 2020, according to an Aug. 18 UT Budget Office report obtained by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act.

The University spent nearly $20.5 million to reopen campus and estimated $9.5 million in additional costs, according to the report. Of that amount, $7.5 million was used for educational technology, including classroom video platforms and remote learning resources.

“Estimates and projections of COVID-related costs and revenue losses, (particularly) for those expected in the Fall 2020 semester, should be considered preliminary and subject to change,” the report said.

Personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies contributed $4.6 million to the reopening costs. Nearly $500,000 of this amount was used for student safety kits with face masks, sanitizer, a thermometer and health instructions. Another $1 million was spent on more than 3,000 sanitation stations. UT estimated over $2 million is needed to purchase sanitizer and other supplies. UT also budgeted $2.1 million to buy safety signage and protective barriers. 

To create UT’s COVID-19 testing system, the University spent $5.2 million from the reopening costs on personnel and testing supplies, such as three rapid testing machines for symptomatic tests and funding for the Proactive Community Testing Program.

“By developing in-house testing capacity, the institution will be able to serve the testing needs of (UT) despite fluctuations in demand that could limit available capacity of commercial labs serving the broader Central Texas community,” the report said.

The report estimated UT will also experience $81.8 million in total revenue loss related to service refunds and event cancellations throughout the 2020 fiscal year. According to the report, UT issued $15.2 million in reimbursements for housing, $11.3 million for dining and $9.2 million for parking when campus closed in March.

UT received $15.7 million in CARES Act funding, which is approximately 10% of the total $152 to $162 million loss estimate, according to the report.

Interim President Jay Hartzell announced in a June 8 message that UT began furloughs in units not generating enough revenue to mitigate financial loss.

Eighteen UT employees began their furloughs in September, University spokesperson J.B. Bird said in an email. The number of people on furlough is time-dependent, Bird said.

“Furloughs are a local decision as each college, school, and unit considers its financial health and makes plans,” Bird said in a July 7 email. “Units that self-generate revenue were affected first by the furlough process.”

Some of the estimated revenue losses include $5.5 million from the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center, $2 million from the Blanton Museum of Art and $2 million from Texas Performing Arts.

Financial impacts from canceled sporting events are “conservatively estimated” at $9.1 million in fiscal year 2020, according to the report. Texas Athletics announced salary reductions and employee furloughs earlier this month, according to previous Texan reporting.

According to the report, best-case projections reveal the University may experience $40 to $50 million in additional unspecified revenue losses besides those from athletics.