Last week, Duke’s coronavirus testing tracker reported 714 positive COVID-19 tests out of the 15,851 tests administered. Each test means another bill for the University, so how much are COVID-related expenses costing Duke?
In October 2020, University officials predicted that testing procedures would cost several million dollars during that academic year. Even with the in-house Duke Human Vaccine Institute helping keep costs down, the sheer number of tests given out would suggest a big price tag.
The predictions proved to be correct: Duke has spent about $20 million to date on COVID-19 mitigation efforts, according to Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations.
He explained that this figure represents all COVID-related mitigation procedures, including surveillance testing, isolation housing, isolation food, staffing, contact tracing and overtime payments. However, these measures have used up only about 0.6% of the University’s annual $3 billion budget, Schoenfeld wrote.
For testing, “labor and consumable supply costs … are market-driven,” DHVI Chief Operating Officer Thomas Denny wrote. Despite market volatility and the emergence of new variants, testing and tracing costs have “remained fairly stable.”
Over 349,000 COVID-19 tests and vaccines were administered during the 2021 fiscal year, according to the University’s 2021 financial statements.
In response to pandemic-induced costs and market volatility, Duke has made a number of restrictive budgetary decisions. Citing potential loss of revenue due to the pandemic, President Vincent Price enacted a number of financial changes in May 2020.
One of these policies involved pausing Duke’s payments to staff retirement funds. After canceling a tuition increase for the 2020-21 academic year due to the pandemic, Duke increased tuition by 3.5% for the 2021-22 academic year.
University capital spending in the 2021 fiscal year decreased by 40% from the 2020 fiscal year, according to official financial statements.
But despite early budgetary cuts, recent months have seen the University’s endowment grow to $12.7 billion, a 56% overall gain increase. Additionally, Duke received over $517 million in private donations across the 2021 fiscal year.
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Vishal Jammulapati is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.