Montana Public Radio

Bodnar: UM Prepared To Face COVID-19 Challenges And Budget Shortfalls

Aug 27, 2020

The global pandemic will likely lead to revenue shortfalls at the University of Montana, according to its president, despite the school’s improved recruitment efforts.

UM’s annual start-of-semester State of the University address normally provides the chance to boast about campus achievements and outline a vision for the future. But, like almost everything else in 2020, Thursday’s address was like no other.

The global pandemic means crowded campus theaters are now off limits. This year’s address – posted online – was a prerecorded video of UM President Seth Bodnar.

“I have to admit I’m a bit sad that we can’t gather in person as a large group to kick off this academic year,” he said. “I miss being together with you all in the same room.”

COVID-19 has forced UM to rapidly change almost every aspect of campus life, Bodnar said: more flexible instruction options, facilities reconfigured to consider social-distancing protocols and a beefed-up technological infrastructure are just a few of UM’s adaptations.

“The guiding imperative for this work has been simple: protect the health and safety of our UM family while ensuring our students can keep on learning,” Bodnar said.

The President rattled off a list of encouraging metrics during his pre-recorded speech. He said UM spent more on research than ever before, summer enrollment numbers were up for the third straight year, and applications to UM are up, too.

In particular, out-of-state applications are up by 30% from one year ago.

But in a Thursday afternoon press conference, Bodnar conceded the COVID-19 pandemic will likely affect final student decisions this fall.

“That’s impacting enrollment,” he said. “I think our numbers are not as high as they would have been in a pre-COVID scenario. That’s something we’re seeing impacting institutions across the state and around the country.”

UM also faces significant revenue shortfalls as a result of a delayed sports schedule, according to Bodnar. He declined to offer details, citing the pending release of final enrollment numbers in about two weeks.