Virginia’s New Budget Gives an Extra $116 Million for Universities

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

By Arianna Coghill

October 28, 2020

The money comes partly from the CARES Act, federal funding that has to be spent by Dec. 30.

RICHMOND- The COVID-19 pandemic put lawmakers in a bind this year. Legislators had to rework the state’s entire budget from bottom to top. But, after several months of retooling and edits, we’re starting to see the new version rolled out, piece by piece. Gov. Ralph Northam announced the latest part on Tuesday, allocating $116 million to help colleges and universities stay open during the pandemic.

“Virginia has some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, and they are working overtime to keep students, staff, and faculty safe,” Northam said in a statement to media. “This additional $116 million in federal funding will go a long way towards closing COVID-related budget gaps at these institutions, and will ensure they can continue to provide a world-class education in the midst of this public health crisis.”

Right now, there are over 5,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in Virginia colleges. In order to prevent more cases from breaking out, schools are in desperate need of COVID-19 tests, protective equipment, and much more. This money will go a long way towards making that happen.

How COVID-19 effected Virginia colleges

After COVID-19 hit, university officials were at a loss. When the pandemic began to pick up speed, most colleges were in the middle of the Spring 2020 semester. How were students and teachers supposed to go to class with an airborne virus spreading? What was going to happen to the students set to graduate in May? These questions amongst several others were up in the air for weeks.

Months later, many universities have resumed classes with a combination of online and in-person learning. Most community colleges, in fact, have already decided that next spring’s semester will be virtual. However, the journey to get there was a long one. May graduations were held virtually. Schools either held summer classes virtually or canceled them.

By the time August rolled around, many schools had plans to reopen their doors for the fall semester with strict COVID-19 guidelines. In order to prevent more people from getting sick, the schools had to introduce several safety measures. Things like hand-sanitizing stations and floor markers to help people remain the CDC recommended six feet apart were introduced into colleges statewide. But these safety measures don’t come cheap.

“College life looks very different in the age of COVID-19,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.

Now, most schools are operating on a combination of in-person and virtual learning. Old Dominion University is one of these universities. Because of this, they and many other schools had to bring in COVID-19 tests, contact tracers and enhanced cleaning protocols for safety.

“We are grateful to the Governor and the General Assembly for targeting some of these much needed resources to higher education to benefit Virginia’s students and families,” said ODU President John Broderick.

The role for college medical campus

While maintaining students’ education was a huge priority, it wasn’t the only one for many schools. College medical campuses played a huge role in reporting and treating COVID-19 cases in their cities. Places like Richmond and Blacksburg rely heavily on their college’s hospitals to treat not only the students, but the people who live in the city. With this money, medical centers are able to get protective equipment, COVID-19 testing equipment, and other necessities for the global health crisis.

It’s very important that these medical centers have appropriate funding to deal with the influx of patients. For example, VCU Health designed its own COVID-19 test from the ground up in less than two weeks. Since then, the medical care center has been treating patients, both with and without COVID-19. VCU Health, the state’s largest medical campus, received the most funding from the $116 million package with $19,887,400. The University of Virginia Medical Center also received some funding in this package to the tune of $5.9 million. Here’s a look at what the other schools got.

Arianna Coghill is a content producer for Dogwood. You can reach her at [email protected].

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