Faculty and Staff - April 21, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

I hope you and your families are well. I am writing to give you an update on a few important matters.

First, I am pleased to share information on housing, dining and parking fee adjustments to our students. Thanks to the good work of a team of individuals from residence life, finance, information technology, and financial aid, fee adjustments were made to impacted student accounts last week. As mentioned previously, some fee adjustments would result in a credit to students’ accounts if they owed the university, while other fee adjustments would result in a refund if students’ accounts were current.

The process provided $3.7 million in reimbursements to student accounts and impacted 2,960 students. You may read more about the process in this news release.

Secondly, I want to share with you what we know so far about the CARES Act and state funding and what that funding will mean for Winthrop.

When the initial Department of Education guidance on CARES came out on April 9, we learned the amount our institution could expect ($5,382,130) with half of that amount ($2,691,065) strictly going toward emergency assistance to students. We are still awaiting clarity about how we will be allowed to disperse funds to students, but we know that this assistance must be provided to degree-seeking students, both graduate and undergraduate, enrolled this spring. We submitted our certificate of funding agreement to the Department of Education last week, and we are waiting for access to the funds.

Our students have been impacted in truly unimaginable ways. Hopefully these resources will abate some of their financial stress. Conversations among senior leadership have focused on the most equitable and fastest way to distribute these funds.  We have a plan based on undergraduate students receiving funds based on their status as Pell-eligible or non-Pell-eligible, per the limited Department of Education guidance received. Graduate students also will receive funds.

As to the other half of the funding, it is to be used to cover COVID-19 costs, but again we have no specifics. We know that some capital and pre-recruitment activities are excluded, and that there is an expectation, but not a requirement, for maintaining payroll. We eagerly await more guidance here.

States also are receiving funds through CARES, and we know that any state-allocated funds will be distributed at Governor Henry McMaster’s discretion to higher education institutions (public and private). We have no information yet on any of these funds and how they may impact us.

Finally, on the state government front, we know that the legislature met in Columbia week before last in a hastily called meeting where the House and Senate were expected to vote on legislation to keep state government operating at this year’s spending levels and to set a date for when they would return to pass a budget for next fiscal year. Tied to that legislation was a spending proposal that set aside $200 million for emergency COVID-19 spending and gave the governor wide power in directing funds. The proposal also allowed state agencies, including colleges and universities, the flexibility to furlough employees if their budgets get out of balance due to revenue shortfalls stemming from the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the full General Assembly failed to adopt those measures, leaving uncertainties on next steps and when the body would again meet. Late last week Governor McMaster offered to call lawmakers back to work on a day of their choosing after coronavirus cases are expected to peak sometime next month. It is unclear at this time whether the legislators will take him up on that offer. So, on the state government front, we continue to watch and wait.

At this point in time, I want to note that it is not our intention to consider employing furloughs until their use is approved by the legislature and only if they are necessary. Based on Governor McMaster's communication to the legislature and our intention to use furloughs as a last resort, it would seem reasonable to conclude the decision whether to employ furloughs because of our budget circumstances is likely to be made later in the spring or even sometime this summer. With regard to returning to work on campus, we await guidance from the Governor's office. However, in anticipation of returning to work on campus at some point, please be assured that we are developing a policy on working from home to accommodate employees who will need to continue to work remotely due to family obligations or health concerns.

I know these last few items are top of mind, and I wish that I had more details to share with you. I will continue to provide information as we receive it and make decisions at the senior leadership level in coordination with the Board of Trustees.



George W. Hynd
Interim President