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Bates College - Statement on the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic

Sue22Sue22 6928 replies121 threads Super Moderator
A letter from Bates College President Clayton Spencer on the financial impact of Covid-19, measures taken, and planning for the future.

https://www.bates.edu/covid-19/2020/04/27/update-on-financial-impact-of-coronavirus/
17 replies
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Replies to: Bates College - Statement on the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic

  • LindagafLindagaf 10990 replies592 threads Super Moderator
    Thanks, @Sue22 . This is a necessary read for parents of all current and prospective students. As ever, Clayton Spencer appears to be thinking first and foremost about what will ultimately benefit the students.
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  • wisteria100wisteria100 4535 replies50 threads Senior Member
    It looks like Bates is taking all of the federal stimulus money available to them. Some schools are only taken the portion allocated to financial aid.
    What do you think about that?
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  • LindagafLindagaf 10990 replies592 threads Super Moderator
    edited April 27
    I think they should take it. It will be put to good use, and not just for students. Bates is a major employer in Lewiston and a major part of the local economy. There are a lot of hotels, restaurants, etc... in the area that benefit from people coming to Bates. And of course, the students at Bates contribute economically to Lewiston. Not to mention the huge number of students involved with the Lewiston community. They need each other.

    I agree @cinnamon1212 , they will survive this, but yes, the money is very important to them.
    edited April 27
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  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 1213 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited April 27
    They should absolutely take it! It is meant for colleges and universities, and Bates does not have a huge endowment. Harvard, now, with the largest endowment of any college in the multiple billions, I agree with their decision to return the money. If any school can withstand tough economic times, it is them. Bates, not so much -- not that they will go under, but they could be badly hurt.
    edited April 27
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6711 replies10 threads Senior Member
    This is a great letter. I think it's easy, if you are a parent or student, to focus on how you aren't getting what you paid for and how the refund hardly bridges that value loss. True that!

    But the schools have very little in the way of savings so are hardly profiting from the crisis. Quite the opposite. I think it's been a hard message to get out there, especially to folks who are also disappointed. Thanks for sharing.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30464 replies59 threads Senior Member
    I think the letter is a harbinger of what is to come. Or has come. It’s going to be a tough haul. Colleges are not exempt.

    The endowment argument doesn’t hold. In addition to all things mentioned, the endowments are for rainy days. And, it is pouring!
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  • LindagafLindagaf 10990 replies592 threads Super Moderator
    @cptofthehouse , I’m sure you’ve heard this line of reasoning before, but Bates and colleges like it have weathered the Depression, WW1, WW2 and the recession. Bates has an excellent financial rating. I didn’t feel the letter was trying to sugarcoat anything. I read it as “we will avoid using the endowment unless necessary.”

    Clayton Spencer has managed to raise a tremendous amount of money in her time at the school. I don’t doubt she will be able to steer Bates through this turbulent time.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30464 replies59 threads Senior Member
    I didn’t taste any sugar in reading the letter/announcement. I’m also aware hat Spencer’s background, pedigree and experience is top niche. Bates is most fortunate to have her.

    I think the most desired schools, the ones with most name recognition, reputations wil we’ll survive. I also think that there will be noticeable cuts in areas at all but the very well endowed colleges. Where that line or area will determine that status yet to be determined.
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  • nickgajnickgaj 78 replies8 threads Junior Member
    I know this is a little off topic but what does everyone think is going to happen in the fall? Is it likely that Bates will open in the fall?
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30464 replies59 threads Senior Member
    I don’t think anyone know for sure. My guess , for what it’s worth, which is nothing in terms of any knowledge, just a personal gut opinion, is that the schools and businesses and lives will make every attempt to go back to What was normal. Though what the new normal will be, I feel will have some significant changes.

    There have been discussion this from as well as many other places on the impact these times, these events will have on schools. Colleges like Bates are financially more insulated than the vast majority, in fact most of the smaller private colleges, so it’s hardly an example to use. There will be an impact, still, as the president of Bates has made clear, in the finances and amenities there. There will be students for which the cost of Bates would have been tough to afford even with things the way things were. Bates, like many of these insulated colleges have found it difficult to diversify the way they have wanted to evolve. More hardships for those need a lot of financial aid and support does not bode well when the college is warning that cuts in services, funds and support are imminent.

    Again, just my opinion.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 10990 replies592 threads Super Moderator
    @nickgaj , if you read the letter, it seems as though Bates is working on a few different scenarios. Of course the best one will be having students back on campus. I think much of that will depend on the situation Maine is in by June. I suspect that, like other colleges, they are going to create modules and if they can't have students back in August, they might aim for October, and so on.

    @cptofthehouse , I do see your point and you could be right, but I am not visualizing a doom and gloom scenario. The professors are there. The classes are there, the campus is there. And the students will be there. All of those things are the most important factors and they already exist. There was just an update that showed the most recent progress on the new Bonney science building and Gomes Chapel. Is it possible that those projects, especially Bonney, will be put on hold? Yes, but those projects also aren't going to have a noticeable effect on the Bates experience as a whole. The Bates experience is still going to be the Bates experience.

    I suspect that the impact will be felt in ways that aren't so noticeable to students. And we also do not know how much the current pandemic will change and what guidelines the government of Maine will be implementing. The whole situation is changing every day it seems. I do think it's very likely that in a month's time, there will be a lot of evidence showing that the mortality rate of the disease is a lot lower than previously thought. If that's the case, if rates stabilize, if business gradually reopen and there isn't a disaster, all of these factors are going to come into play. I think states with fewer cases will be able to reopen sooner, and Maine might well be one of those states. Not to get too sidetracked with the pandemic, but I'm using it in context of colleges reopening and also the economy restarting. IOW, I am going to remain optimistic that as we don't yet know what the situation will be like in a couple of months, I feel there is reason to believe it may improve.
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  • Sue22Sue22 6928 replies121 threads Super Moderator
    The Bonney Center project is ongoing and making good progress. Likewise the renovation of the Gomes Chapel. These are too far along for the college to want to interrupt them unless absolutely necessary. What's more likely is that they'll put off some scheduled maintenance. You can't do that forever or things start to fall apart but a year or two won't be noticeable. There are also projects that college had in the longterm plan like a full renovation of Chase that will likely be delayed.

    @wisteria100, I agree that Bates should take the stimulus money. One of Bates' historical weaknesses is the size of their endowment and they've done substantial fundraising to try to bump it up. For reference, Bates' endowment is less than half that of Colby, 1/4 that of Bowdoin, and 1/7 that of Amherst or Williams. These schools all have similar numbers of students. The size of the endowment matters, not only because it helps fund things like financial aid but because it influences the school's Moody's rating, which in turn affects the interest rate it needs to pay to borrow for capital projects.
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 2248 replies35 threads Senior Member
    I admire and appreciate the transparency of this letter...
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  • merc81merc81 11887 replies203 threads Senior Member
    The Sun Journal provides independent coverage of the impact of the COVID–19 crisis on Bates in this recent article: https://www.sunjournal.com/2020/05/21/a-bleak-outlook-for-bates-as-college-tries-to-cope-with-covid-19/.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 10990 replies592 threads Super Moderator
    Interesting article, and a bit one sided, to be honest. I don’t think Bates is on the edge of collapse. I’m wondering about the headline, given this line in the article:
    “‘That’s a financial blow, but one the college, with an endowment of more than $320 million, can weather without too much trouble,’ officials said.”

    This article sounds very much as though someone approached the newspaper with this information. I don’t blame staff who are worried though. I think virtually all colleges are worried.
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  • merc81merc81 11887 replies203 threads Senior Member
    Lindagaf wrote:
    Interesting article, and a bit one sided, to be honest.

    The article's perspective seems to have missed national context. The current threat to Bates appears equivalent to that faced by most other highly popular, highly ranked colleges. That is, colleges on this level may face significant challenges, but remain in an advantageous position compared to many other schools.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 10990 replies592 threads Super Moderator
    I would agree with that, @merc81 .

    The article you linked also seems somewhat contradictory to this earlier article from 5/11.
    https://www.sunjournal.com/2020/05/10/bates-college-adds-voices-to-its-quest-to-plan-for-covid-19/
    That article mentions the incoming student gov president, who said “he’d just gotten off a Zoom session with the fall planning committee and student government leaders, an indication that officials are beginning to reach out.”
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