Though Goshen College anticipated a plethora of financial impediments this semester due to COVID-19, outside funds and steady student enrollment numbers have largely mitigated these concerns.
Though they still do exist.
“The costs [of COVID-19] are far greater than the savings,” President Stoltzfus said.
Refunding room and board expenses last semester was once such cost, as was the loss of tuition from cancelled May and summer term classes. Other major losses included the cancellation of the Performing Arts Series as well as making the decision not to rent out facilities over the summer.
On a smaller scale, changes at GC have come as the administration puts more resources into COVID-19 mitigating signage as well as the custodial team, according to director of campus safety and housing operation Chad Coleman.
“In terms of weathering the financial shocks of COVID-19,” President Stoltzfus said, “A significant help came from our alumni and donor base. Giving to the general fund last year was a historic high, and exceeded our budget goal.”
Goshen also received two types of financial assistance from the federal government.
The first type of assistance was from the CARES Act, which, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury website, was passed in late March in order to provide “fast and direct economic assistance for American, workers, families and small businesses.”
Some of the CARES money was distributed to Goshen students in a two-step process.
“The first round was what students asked for and the second round was based on what we knew from financial aid applications about students individually,” President Stoltzfus said.
Goshen College also received aid from the federal government in the form of a loan from the Payroll Protection Program through the Small Business Association.
“[The loan] was intended to help us avoid laying off employees, which we otherwise were prepared to do,” President Stoltzfus said. “We qualified for a loan of just under $3 million. It was $2.9 million… so a significant loan that becomes forgivable if we spend it according to the CARES Act. According to our current estimation, we haven’t crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s, but… we are estimating that $2.705 million dollars of that will be forgiven.”
Another important factor in Goshen’s budget planning process is enrollment numbers.
In terms of college finances for this year, “We had put together best, middle and worse case scenarios for this year’s budget based on where admissions might land, and they hit the best for where we were at and we had budgeted on the middle, so that was a boon to us, compared to where we thought we might be,” President Stoltzfus said.
Like every other organization on campus, admissions has made COVID-19 related adjustments.
Typically, the admissions team will do significant traveling during the fall. However, many of the recruitment events they would’ve attended are no longer taking place.
This means switching to hosting virtual meet-ups with high schools and doing virtual college fair and youth group visits in addition to bringing a limited number of prospective students to campus.
“We are still hosting in-person visits,” Linda VandenBosch, director of admissions said. “But we operated within the guidelines of the Pandemic Task Force. This means lower registration numbers allowed at events and also limiting the number of visitors each day.”
One of the biggest challenges the admissions team currently faces is the question of how to make personal connections with prospective students over Zoom.
“The personal connection is critical in a prospective student’s decision when choosing a college, and we want to continue to build those relationships in spite of fewer in-person opportunities to connect. Prospective students are beginning to experience Zoom fatigue, so finding new ways to reach out virtually can be a challenge,” VandenBosch said.
Despite the challenges admissions has been facing, enrollment is up this year. Registrar office reports comparing this fall and last fall show an increase of 19 students.
While it’s too soon to say for sure what next semester’s enrollment will look like, it’s not unusual for Goshen College to see a slight drop in enrollment in the spring semester. Between the fall and spring semesters of last year, 66 students failed to reenroll in the spring semester.
“It looks like over the past few years our spring numbers are typically around 50-60 fewer than fall enrollment,” said Bob Toews, assistant director of institutional research and academic database manager. “So far, our retention of the 2020 cohort is really strong.”
In terms of retention, President Stoltzfus noted what a compact semester it has been without a fall break, while also trying to adjust to different modalities of teaching.
“I know that faculty were registering more academic alerts this semester than usual and our retention team has been really busy responding to those… I don’t have a crystal ball about where [next semester’s numbers] will land,” she said.
Still President Stoltzfus feels that going forward, everyone at Goshen College will all be more prepared for the next semester, which will include five study days instead of three in an effort to counteract the intensity of a semester without a spring break.
“We’ve all learned a lot… We have more experience under our belts, all of us, heading into next semester than we did heading into this one,” President Stoltzfus said.