(Photo of Cornell's Arts Quad, courtesy of the university)

ITHACA, N.Y. –– Cornell University is set to receive $12.8 million as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the federal government in late March.

“Cornell University will receive $12.8 million from the CARES Act “Education Stabilization Fund” under a formula established by Congress that is based on the number of our low-income (Pell Grant) students and the overall size of our student population,” Joel Malina, vice president for university relations said in a statement.

One of the provisions of the act is that at least 50 percent of the money received must be reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.

“Cornell will use 100 percent of these CARES Act funds to support students, going beyond the federal requirement that half of the funds be put towards emergency financial assistance to our students,” added Malina. “We know that many of our students will have increased need as a result of the pandemic.”

According to Malina, Cornell’s Ithaca campus is facing an anticipated COVID-related budget shortfall of over $100 million for the coming fiscal year –– a similar story coming out of colleges and universities across the country.

Some are concerned over the disparity in losses and support funds –– the American Council on Education calls the CARES money “woefully inadequate” and have lobbied Congress for $46 billion more to support higher education.

At the end of March, Cornell took action to shrink its budget, including a freeze on hiring and salary increases. Other steps taken to rein in expenditures include a travel ban for university-related business (faculty and their research groups may still travel on their own research grants), and all summer classes and programs are being canceled or moved online. Discretionary spending for food and events has been suspended until further notice.

Additionally, all capital projects involving the renovation or construction of Cornell facilities are being re-evaluated. Unless deemed essential, the projects will be put on hold, and no new construction projects will be initiated until financial conditions improve.

Cornell University has a $7.3 billion endowment, however, there are limits on how much of that money the university can access at one time.

With the fall semester up in the air, the economic impacts on both Cornell and Tompkins County are uncertain.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com