Financial issues arise from COVID-19 pandemic

Naida Gonzalez, Reporter

Park University is still working out details on financial issues arising as a result of COVID-19.

According to Park University’s website, Park has moved to a modified closed status because of COVID-19. All non-essential employees are working virtually. However, Greg Gunderson, Ph.D., Park University’s president, recognized that some students need to be on campus amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We made the decision early on, where other schools have said that the dorms had to close, we are attempting to keep them open in order to support our students,” Dr. Gunderson said. “It is, I can tell you, an expensive proposition to keep them open.”

Some students are concerned about whether they will be receiving refunds since they moved out of the dorms. Park University is still trying to come up with a fair solution for students who chose to move out for the remainder of the semester.

Dr. Gunderson said there is no answer yet, but his staff is working the issue and will be reaching out to students as soon as they know more.

Dr. Gunderson said during the week of March 16 that the university’s “primary priority has been making the transition online, and we’ve identified who stayed housing and that we’re meeting food and shelter and security means.”

Essential employees who are unable to do their jobs at home will still report to campus. Essential employees that are uncomfortable coming to campus because of COVID-19 are allowed to stay home.

“Those people have vacation and paid time off, but if they exhaust those, they go into an unpaid status,” said Roger Dusing, chief human resource officer.

More broadly, Dr. Gunderson announced in a meeting of faculty on March 27 that interim CFO Gregg Givens had signed a contract to join Park in that role full-time. He also said that with decreases in enrollment, the loss of many on-campus residents and some costs related to COVID-19, the university was working to address a planned budget shortfall this academic year.

Construction on the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center – future home of the College of Management and the Warrior Center – is still progressing, as construction work has been deemed an essential task so far. Dr. Gunderson said the Plaster Center project is funded by about 50 percent donations and 50 percent bonds, so its cost does not affect the operating budget. Put another way – the money being used to build the Plaster Center can only be used either for that project or for capital improvements. It can’t be used to pay salaries or other expenses.