Inside INdiana Business

New Purdue budget emphasizes COVID safety

(photo courtesy of Purdue University)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Purdue University Board of Trustees has approved the university’s 2021 fiscal year operating budget. Purdue says the budget shifts millions of dollars to make health and safety related to the COVID-19 pandemic its top priority.

The university has allocated as much as $50 million for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, in addition to instructional capacity, building and facility modifications, additional sanitizing and cleaning, personal protective equipment, and quarantine rooms for students.

“Protecting our most vulnerable and reopening campus safely will require that the university expend funds for critical health and safety infrastructure,” said Chris Ruhl, treasurer and chief financial officer at Purdue “This, of course, is a must-do and a top priority for the fiscal-year 2021 budget plan.”

Purdue says nearly $5 million will be allocated for enrollment growth investments such as the hiring of 28 faculty members. The budget also reduces non-essential spending such as deferring merit increases, reducing travel and purchases, and deferring repair and rehabilitation expenses.

“In our view, confronting this budget challenge head-on is preferable to hoping that it will go away,” Ruhl said. “By acting early and decisively, our hope is that decisions that are more painful can be avoided. Every week brings news of more colleges and universities announcing layoffs, furloughs, reduced pay, suspension of retirement contributions and other personnel actions for existing faculty and staff.”

While Purdue’s West Lafayette campus will continue with the tuition freeze announced in February, the university says tuition and fees at the university’s northwest and Fort Wayne campuses will follow the recommendations from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education of up to 1.65% annually.

Purdue says the trustees have endorsed total operating expenditures for the fiscal year of just under $2.1 billion for the West Lafayette campus and $139 million each for the northwest and Fort Wayne campuses.

The trustees also approved a third block of actions as part of the Protect Purdue initiative in response to the pandemic. They include:

  • Implementing a testing and contact tracing program for symptomatic individuals and those who have been in contact with COVID-19. It also includes a single-point health monitoring system on the West Lafayette campus.
  • Developing and conducting dining operations to meet campus needs while maintaining social distancing, such as carryout dining, reconfigured spaces, and temporary removal of indoor seating.
  • Developing a strategy to enable students to continue their courses in the event their attendance is interrupted due to COVID-19, including face-to-face, hybrid and online courses.