University of Michigan is taking steps to bring students back on campus this fall

Personal finance

University of Michigan

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Although the upcoming academic year remains in limbo, the University of Michigan said it is taking steps to bring students back on campus in the fall.

“The average student is very anxious to get out of mom and dad’s basement and come back to school,” President Mark Schlissel told CNBC.

Schlissel said he is “very optimistic” the university will be able to host what he calls a “public-health-informed residential semester.”

 That likely means moving large lectures online, limiting in-person gatherings and teaching labs to smaller groups.

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As for the school’s 900-plus student athletes and the fall football season, “there are ways to allow our students to train and practice safely,” Schlissel said — even if that won’t be in a packed stadium of Wolverines fans.

“What is very hard for me to imagine is how to bring 110,000 people into a confined space, even an outdoor confined space,” he said.

The loss of athletics could have ripple-effect repercussions for months, if not years, to come, according to Steven Agran, managing director at Carl Marks Advisors and head of the firm’s higher education group.

Athletic programs such as the one at the University of Michigan generate enough revenue to pay for coaches, facilities and scholarships, he said. “Now it’s going to be a major burden that goes to the overall challenges of the cost structure of schools.”

Across the board, falling enrollment and retention rates due to Covid-19, as well as summer program cancellations and significant declines in giving, have already taken a toll on colleges and universities.

Schlissel said the University of Michigan estimates anticipated losses of $400 million to $1 billion through the end of the 2020 year.

In response, the school is undergoing “belt-tightening” measures, Schlissel said, including hiring and salary freezes, voluntary furloughs and the postponement of capital improvement projects and other forms of non-essential spending.

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