UT president discusses football, fall semester and financial impact of coronavirus

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd spoke to the Board of Trustees with optimism and pride about their response to the coronavirus pandemic and their future as an institution.

Three weeks ago, campuses around the state offered roughly 60,000 credit hours online. In response to the COVID-19 threat, Boyd reported, they’re offering more than 560,000.

RELATED: University of Tennessee task force to study plans for safe fall return of students

Financially, UT Knoxville took a major hit. Through revenue losses in athletics, the campus bookstore, and parking fees, as well as student reimbursements for housing and dining services, they’re projected to lose $30,381,255.

Boyd assured trustees some of the loss would be offset by federal relief, via FEMA as well as the CARES Act, and state funds as well.

He said the faculty are doing more than simply “getting around a problem … it’s actually giving us opportunities to deliver education in new and exciting ways,” he said. “All across the state our faculty has stepped up. They’ve all had challenges. They’ve all overcome those challenges. It’s been inspiring to see…how determined they work to make sure our students are successful.”

Will classes be online in the fall?

While Boyd said he’s optimistic about students returning to campus, he wasn’t prepared to commit to it Friday. “We’re looking at everything, from a worst-case scenario, of all classes online and no sports, to everything back to normal, and everything in between,” Boyd said. “At this point we’re still collecting data and it’s too early to call which way we’ll be going.”

A decision about sports, he pointed out, is up the SEC.

UTK Chancellor Donde Plowman also sees the cultural shift in higher education as an opportunity.

Plowman offered some insight into what fall could look like: “Even a face-to-face class, now, is going to have parts of it … online because you can’t put them all in a classroom.”

A question was raised about a tuition increase for the fall. Boyd said that’s being considered by individual campuses at this point. Boyd will present tuition proposals to the trustees in June.

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