Coronavirus illustration

Image caption:

University operations

Is the university open?

The university is open and operating with measures in place to protect the health of our essential workers and the community as well as ensure compliance with state and local mandates related to COVID-19, including remote and online learning in lieu of in-person instruction and telework for the majority of our employees.

What is the status of activity on our campuses?

Only essential activities may take place on campus at present. All residential and in-person educational programs and university and third-party events, both on and off campus, are canceled through July 31st, including tours, admissions events, athletics events, and alumni events. The vast majority of in-person research activity is also suspended, with some exceptions, including research related to the COVID pandemic.

When will our campuses return to normal operations?

No decision has yet been made on a date to start down a path toward returning to normal operations on Johns Hopkins’ campuses. We are bound by the state’s current restrictions on activity, as well as our own careful determination of the right path forward based on the advice of public health experts. Interdisciplinary work groups are considering the steps that will be necessary to resume in-person activities, guided first and foremost by input from our experts in public health. Most likely, different aspects of campus activity – research; graduate and professional programs; undergraduate education; elective and other currently-suspended clinical care; activities (e.g., recreation and athletics); and housing and dining — will resume at different times and in different ways based on the need to maintain our community’s health and safety.

Will in-person classes resume in the fall?

Our goal is to resume in-person educational, clinical and research activities to the greatest extent possible this fall, if not before. Extensive planning is underway now, as we consider a range of options for how, and when, to return to campus while maintaining our community’s health and safety. No decisions have been made yet, and we are benefitting from the input and ideas of our faculty, students and staff. Given the range of our undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, our research and clinical activities, and our housing, dining and co-curricular offerings, spread across multiple campuses, we anticipate some variations in timing and approach, with the potential for a mix of in-person, online and hybrid offerings.

Johns Hopkins finances

How has the COVID pandemic affected JHU finances?

Based on our modeling of the most likely course of the pandemic and an evaluation of our operations and budgets, we have modeled that without taking significant, immediate mitigating actions the university would lose as much as $100 million in the current fiscal year (ending June 30) and as much as $375 million in FY21 (July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021).

What is causing the university’s projected losses?

We are experiencing sharp reductions in revenue in several areas: lost tuition revenue across various programs; foregone reimbursements for administrative and other fixed costs related to research; reduced clinical activity due to the suspension of all but the most urgent health care procedures and services; lower unrestricted giving to the university; the return of undergraduate housing and dining payments; and a lower payout from the endowment because of declines in financial markets. More details are available here.

How is the university addressing its revenue losses?

Effective April 7, the university instituted a pause on hiring (with exceptions for mission-critical or strategic opportunities), a salary freeze and a temporary halt to many capital projects. On April 21, the university announced that those steps will be extended to the end of FY21 and that it would institute a one-year suspension of university contributions to employees’ defined contribution retirement plans. Furloughs and layoffs are regrettably expected to be necessary within some units of the university. In recognition of these sacrifices across the university, salaries will be reduced for the president and provost (20%) and for the deans and university officers (10%). More details are available here.

Are there furloughs or layoffs planned for university employees?

Furloughs and layoffs are regrettably expected to be necessary within some units of the university as an unavoidable consequence of the university’s estimated potential losses due to COVID-19. Decisions regarding furloughs and layoffs will be made at the divisional and departmental level, including within university administration, with a focus on sustaining our academic, research and service priorities. Supportive transition assistance will be provided for affected employees.

Why is the university suspending retirement contributions and how do I know if I am affected?

The university is suspending employer contributions to the 403(b) 4/8 Plan, the 403(b) 6/12 Plan, Income Deferral 403(b) Plan for Residents, Interns and Postdoctoral Fellows, and the 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan for fiscal year 2021 (beginning July 1, 2020). This does not affect contributions to the Pension Plan Plus Staff Voluntary 403(b) Plan. This decision was made because it will achieve significant needed savings to the university and the divisions (approximately $100 million) while avoiding other cost-saving actions such as across-the-board salary reductions. More information about this suspension can be found here and questions can be answered by the JHU Benefits Service Center at 410-516-2000.

What does this mean for major capital projects, like the 555 Pennsylvania Ave. project in Washington, the SNF Agora Institute and the new Student Center?

We are in the process of evaluating our capital program commitments. However, we do expect to move forward with projects that are largely, or in some cases entirely, supported by dedicated donor or sponsored research funds.

Will more cuts be necessary?

Yes. The immediate steps the university is taking address only a portion of the projected losses. The university is directing deans and university administration leaders to develop and implement plans to meet our strategic priorities and mission within potentially significantly reduced budgets over the next three years. That planning process will begin immediately. In addition, we will focus on new revenue opportunities, including the possibility of government COVID-19 relief funds, foundation support, and new programs across our divisions.

Why doesn’t Hopkins use its endowment to solve its financial problems?

The university’s endowment is largely comprised of donations given for specified purposes, such as a particular research endeavor, a faculty professorship, or student financial aid, and we are legally and ethically bound to use these funds for the purposes for which they were given. Only a small portion of the endowment may be used to support general university operations on an unrestricted basis, covering about 4% of Johns Hopkins’ annual budget. In addition, endowment funds are given pursuant to our binding commitment that they will be used to provide support to the university in perpetuity. This means that only a portion of the earnings on the endowment may be spent in any given year, and, unfortunately, declines in the value of the university’s investments as a result of the COVID pandemic have prompted us to reduce our anticipated payout from the endowment for FY21.

Can the university use cash reserves to weather the economic downturn?

The university enters this crisis in a strong financial position, having taken steps in recent years to guard against economic downturns, including building up the university’s cash reserves. We will use some of these reserves to help weather the impact of this crisis, but the magnitude of the losses we face is significantly greater than could be prudently covered by these funds, therefore significant cost reductions are also necessary.

Why does a reduction in clinical billing impact Johns Hopkins University?

Faculty physicians in the School of Medicine are employees of Johns Hopkins University rather than Johns Hopkins Health System. Because we have suspended elective surgeries and most other non-urgent, in-person care, many faculty physicians have not been able to perform clinical care at their usual level of activity; some have been redeployed to COVID-19 patient care. The university, with the health system, remains responsible for and committed to the salaries of these faculty colleagues.

Will the university seek funding from the federal government through the CARES Act?

We regard the funds allocated in the higher education portion of the CARES Act as an important source of supplementary support for the neediest students, and given the magnitude of the university’s projected losses, we are very closely analyzing the possible use of these funds. Johns Hopkins is also pursuing other sources of federal funding to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic, and we are providing information to employees about federal legislation that relaxed restrictions on withdrawing or borrowing from your 403(b) account.

Employee information

Are there furloughs or layoffs planned for university employees?

Furloughs and layoffs are regrettably expected to be necessary within some units of the university as an unavoidable consequence of the university’s estimated potential losses due to COVID-19. Decisions regarding furloughs and layoffs will be made at the divisional and departmental level, including within university administration, with a focus on sustaining our academic, research and service priorities. Supportive transition assistance will be provided for affected employees.

Is there a timetable for considering furloughs or layoffs?

Unfortunately, layoffs and/or furloughs are underway in some divisions for which the effects of the economic downturn are most immediate. In general, they will be considered on a divisional or departmental level as part of the university’s process of realigning its budgets to match the new fiscal circumstances. These are serious decisions with a significant impact on our community, and they require careful consideration and assessment. In some areas, clear and concentrated revenue losses will require immediate action; in others, it will take time to analyze the situation and thoughtfully determine needed changes.

Why is the university suspending retirement contributions and how do I know if I am affected?

The university is suspending employer contributions to the 403(b) 4/8 Plan, the 403(b) 6/12 Plan, Income Deferral 403(b) Plan for Residents, Interns and Postdoctoral Fellows, and the 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan for fiscal year 2021 (beginning July 1, 2020). This does not affect contributions to the Pension Plan Plus Staff Voluntary 403(b) Plan. This decision was made because it will achieve significant needed savings to the university and the divisions (approximately $100 million) while avoiding other cost-saving actions such as across-the-board salary reductions. More information about this suspension can be found here and questions can be answered by the JHU Benefits Service Center at 410-516-2000.

My compensation is grant-funded. How does the suspension in retirement contributions apply to me?

We are guided by the idea that such a strong action as the suspension in university retirement contributions should affect all university employees without exception, including those whose positions are grant funded. The suspension will result in a lower fringe rate on grants for FY21; whether and how grant funds that are freed up as a result of this lower fringe rate may be used by the PI will vary by sponsor or agency.

Can I choose to take a salary cut instead of the pause to retirement contributions:

No. We explored that option, but by law, actions with regard to our retirement plans cannot be made on an individualized basis.

Can I make additional contributions to my retirement account to make up for the pause in university contributions?

Depending on your current contribution amount, yes. Employees may contribute to the defined contribution retirement plans (403(b) and 457(b) accounts) up to the $19,500 for 2020 (the maximum levels set by the IRS). Employees age 50 or older may also be eligible to make “catch-up” contributions, up to an additional $6,500 in 2020.

Does the salary freeze preclude equity adjustments, reclassifications?

In general, yes. Any exceptions, such as a reclassification, equity adjustment or supplemental bonus, will require the written approval of the dean.

Is the university also suspending incentive pay?

We anticipate that bonuses or incentive pay for FY20 will be impacted by the financial challenge facing the university; however, we are not instituting a university-level prohibition on such pay at this time.
We recognize that in some programs or departments (such as the School of Medicine clinical faculty, technology transfer, and development) incentive pay is a substantial component of annual compensation and essential for maintaining competitiveness. Because all bonuses and incentive compensation are tied in part to the financial performance of the university or division, we anticipate the financial impacts of COVID-19 will also have some effect on those awards, but those decisions will be made, as usual, at or following the close of the fiscal year.

Are there any exceptions to the hold on hiring?

For staff positions—the university is restricting hiring through fiscal 2021. Employment offer letters issued through April 7 will be honored, but any new offers will require written approval of the dean. We will allow flexibility for hiring to meet urgent or strategic needs, particularly roles essential to program or clinical activity related to the COVID pandemic.

For academic positions—the deans will review all approved or planned faculty searches with the provost to jointly determine which should continue and which should be paused. Hiring of postdoctoral trainees and part-time or casual faculty will also be restricted to those that are essential to instruction, research, and/or clinical operations. Hiring for those roles will require the approval of the dean.

Is the university cutting tuition benefits for employees and their dependents?

No. The only reduction to benefits at this time is the one-year suspension of university contributions to employees’ defined contribution retirement plans.

Is there a chance the university will reverse some of these cuts if conditions improve?

By late fall, and periodically thereafter, we will assess the measures adopted to date, as against the evolving public health and economic environment more broadly and at Johns Hopkins – taking into account the availability of state and federal funding relief. We will adjust as warranted, with a commitment to considering the financial impacts to our employees.

Can I suspend my on-campus parking or get a refund for the time I have spent working remotely?

There is an institution-wide hold on parking permit changes due to the financial requirements associated with building and maintaining parking structures.

Where can I find out more information about the COVID-19 workforce relief funds? Can I make a contribution to those funds to support my fellow workers?

More information about the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Workforce Relief Funds can be found (link). The university has set up two funds to provide support for our lowest-resourced employees and displaced contract workers who are in need of financial assistance as a result of the pandemic. These funds – the COVID-19 Employee Relief Fund and the COVID-19 Contract Worker Relief Fund – will follow the eligibility requirements set forth in the recent federal relief program. Right now, these funds are provided solely by the university, but we appreciate the request from so many of our faculty and staff who want to help their fellow workers by contributing to these funds, and we are exploring ways to make this possible.

Student questions

Will classes be in person or conducted remotely in the fall?

We are in the process of evaluating the best way to provide the Johns Hopkins educational and research experience while maintaining our community’s health and safety, including a range of online, hybrid and in-person options. Given the range of our undergraduate, graduate and professional degree offerings, spread across multiple campuses, we anticipate some variations in approach. We will announce our plans as soon as possible.

Will JHU raise tuition and fees as a result of the financial problems caused by the COVID pandemic?

Tuition and fee increases for the next academic year were set before the COVID pandemic, and we have no plans to raise them further.

Will Hopkins refund part of students’ tuition for this semester because it is conducting classes remotely rather than in person?

We are not offering tuition refunds for the spring semester. The core educational experience for students continues to include the same access to the time, resources, and expertise of our outstanding faculty and curriculum, as well as so many of the surrounding supports normally provided for students, including academic advising, career planning and life design, health and wellness counseling, library resources, and information technology support. However, the university has issued pro-rated refunds of undergraduate room and board and other fees for the spring semester, and it extended the deadline for undergraduate students to take a leave of absence and receive a partial tuition refund, among other accommodations.

How will Johns Hopkins handle grading this semester?

In recognition of the challenges posed by the switch to remote learning, all Johns Hopkins divisions adopted modified policies this semester to allow for greater use of pass/fail grading. More information can be found here.

What will happen to belongings students left behind in undergraduate dorm rooms?

Residential undergraduate students’ belongings will remain in place in their assigned rooms unless the space is needed in support of the university’s public health response. In that case, we will communicate with a student directly. Meanwhile, the university is continuing routine housekeeping, maintenance and monitoring of residence halls.