JMU News

Update on university financial situation


Dear JMU Faculty and Staff, 

We want to share a brief update on the university’s financial situation in light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Ordinarily at this time of year, the Governor and General Assembly are completing their work on the state budget, and our Board of Visitors is preparing to vote on tuition and the budget for the upcoming academic year. Obviously, circumstances have changed dramatically in recent weeks, and we are all striving together to make good decisions that will protect the university, its people and its mission.

First and foremost, we want to express our thanks and admiration for your efforts during this unprecedented crisis. You, the faculty and staff of James Madison University, have proven why students and their families cherish this institution so much: Your dedication to maintaining academic progress as university operations were completely disrupted shows just how much you care. Even as each of you dealt personally with the crisis, you made sure that the institution continued to deliver on its mission. For that, we commend and appreciate you.

Originally, the General Assembly’s budget actions taken during this past legislative session for the next biennium put JMU in a very solid financial position, including the provision of tuition moderation funds that would have allowed us to hold tuition level for another year. But because of the pandemic, the Governor has asked that all new funds in the state budget (including the tuition moderation money, compensation increases, and funds for other special higher education initiatives) be put on hold pending review of revenues in the upcoming months. This uncertainty with regard to the state budget is of course exacerbated by many other variables that will have an impact on the university’s budget for this coming year—including, for example, enrollment for the next academic year, the potential impact of federal relief money for students and the institution, the impact on fundraising, the impact on the endowment from market fluctuations, and many others. For these reasons, the budget situation is extremely fluid at this point, and the university must prepare for a wide range of financial possibilities for this coming academic year. 

Given this context, and given the current challenges for in-person public meetings, the normal schedule for the JMU Board of Visitors (BOV) has been changed. The BOV will hold a virtual public meeting on April 24 (its original meeting date) to receive general updates on the university’s response to the pandemic. No actions will be taken at that meeting. Next, the BOV will hold its tuition hearing virtually on April 28 to receive comments. And on May 15, the BOV will reconvene (in a virtual or mostly virtual format) in a public executive committee meeting to consider tuition and fees, the budget, and other action items as needed. Because of the many variables noted here, the BOV will be considering changes in tuition and fees that reflect the current circumstances. 

Please know: As we deal with the situation moving forward, our guiding principles are to preserve and protect our core educational mission and our people, who are the university’s most important resource. These always have been our top priorities. And those of you who have worked at the university for many years know that we have managed past budget challenges while avoiding layoffs and furloughs by taking prudent actions. That is certainly our goal and intent again in this crisis, and we will do everything possible in pursuit of these guiding principles. 

In that spirit, all divisions and units across the university have been asked to look carefully at their budgets, and to set priorities and contingencies based on these principles. Governor Ralph Northam has asked all state agencies (including public institutions of higher education) to take a hard look at their spending, and we are responding as requested. In both the Education & General budget (which is supported by tuition and state funding, and which in turn supports instructional activities and personnel) and the Auxiliaries budget (which is supported by student fees and other non-state revenue sources, and which includes areas such as housing, dining, and Athletics), we are carefully reviewing items such as hiring, travel, purchasing, and special events, as well as deferral of significant capital projects such as planned renovations of Eagle Hall and the current Convocation Center. JMU’s efforts on this front will require continuing conversation across all of our units, and we appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters together. We understand that it’s a challenging time for everyone, but we also know that we can manage this crisis best by working together and encouraging one another. 

At this point, we are expecting to open as scheduled for in-person classes for the Fall 2020 semester. We are planning for all possible contingencies as public health guidance evolves, and we’ll be in touch as more information becomes available on that front. A contingency planning task force co-chaired by Provost Heather Coltman and Senior VP Charlie King already has met and is developing several scenarios for consideration to allow for continued university operations during this public health crisis. 

In the meantime, we wish you and your families good health as we all work to bring the Spring 2020 semester to a successful conclusion in spite of facing unprecedented challenges. Thanks for all you are doing for JMU. 

Jon Alger, President

Heather Coltman, Provost & Senior VP Academic Affairs

Donna Harper, VP Access & Enrollment

Charlie King, Senior VP Administration & Finance

Nick Langridge, VP Advancement

Tim Miller, VP Student Affairs


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Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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