Dear AU Community,
As we close 2020, I am pleased to share some important updates that move us toward 2021 with hope. While this year’s challenges have been enormous, and tough times are not over, there are many reasons we can look forward to brighter days. As vaccines begin to be distributed, the dedication of scientists, front line health care workers, and so many others put us on the path to ultimately controlling the pandemic and easing the suffering. While this important work is beginning across the country, we have to continue following the public health guidance, wearing masks, and using the critical tools that can help keep us safe.
Within our AU community, hope is made possible because of you. Today is an opportunity to honor you and your contributions throughout the year. Our people define American University. Throughout the pandemic and in the face of seemingly endless hurdles, you took extraordinary measures to safeguard our community, advance our mission, and care for one another. Now, as we look to a new year and seek a return to normal as soon as possible, I hope today’s news can create some certainty for you in this uncertain world.
Thanks to so much hard work across our community, we maintained financial discipline and are on track with our FY 2021 budget mitigations and projections to date. As a result, we have no plans for further university-wide furloughs, barring any unforeseen circumstances. If we can sustain spring enrollments and remain vigilant in our expense savings, we will be on track to restore the university’s matching retirement contributions and fund annual merit increases for faculty and staff in FY 2022 (which begins in July 2021).
Arriving at this positive outcome has not been easy. The entire higher education landscape has endured extensive financial difficulties. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that more than 500,000 jobs have been lost at colleges and universities nationwide. Other institutions in the Washington, DC, area experienced significant layoffs.
At American University, we worked diligently to mitigate our financial shortfall and limit the impacts on our people. Incredible work over many years built the financial reserves that helped to cover a substantial portion of the budget gaps. Immediate and careful fiscal management this year helped manage the budgetary implications of COVID-19, prepare us for the impacts over a two-year period, and limit the mitigation steps needed. Rather than layoffs, our community made extensive sacrifices in many areas. We kept our focus on our students, our mission, and our community, and that has brought us to the successful completion of the fall semester and today’s good news.
I hope this update gives some comfort as we go into the holiday break. When we return for the spring semester, we have to continue the hard work that has brought us to this point. We are on the ramp not only to increased campus activity, but also to the better times after the pandemic when we can all be together and thriving at American University.
On another positive note, we announced last week a mid-semester residential experience for approximately 1,250 students from March to the end of the spring semester. This program (previously referred to as a “mini-mester”) is an important piece of a safe return to in-person, residential operations. The foundation of this residential opportunity will be a rigorous protocol of COVID-19 testing, adherence to health and safety guidelines, and cooperation across our community. More information and frequently asked questions are available on the Spring 2021 Mid-Semester Residential Experience website.
The fact that we are moving forward–ramping up activity, expanding safe returns to campus, meeting financial goals, and so much more–is a testament to the spirit of the AU community. We take on challenges together. We support one another in tough times. And we share in the hope of all that lies ahead for us.
One more time for 2020, and it can never be said enough, thank you.
Be safe and be well, and I hope that you find joy and rest where you can during the holidays.