zimmer letter photo

The University of Chicago's sign at Blackstone Avenue and the Midway Plaisance.

University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer sent an email Tuesday outlining the “financial implications” of the coronavirus outbreak on the school’s finances and detailing spending freezes and cuts as a result of the pandemic.

“The expected financial impact on the University and its duration is likely to be as great as or even greater than in the financial crisis of 2008-09,” wrote Zimmer. “It will be complicated by the uncertainties of the trajectory of the ongoing global pandemic. These financial challenges for the University will be similar to those faced by universities and colleges around the country.”

Specifically, Zimmer wrote that the university expected a need for increased financial aid to students as families lose their incomes, as well as a decrease in the school’s endowment because of the financial downturn. Other effects include a decrease in revenue for the university’s medical center “due to the extensive work connected to COVID-19,” and future uncertainty around funding for academic projects.

Zimmer also outlined the funding freezes and cuts that will take place as a result. “The university will be asking every academic and administrative unit to make significant adjustments in expenditures, both immediately and in the next academic year,” he wrote.

Salaries for faculty, staff and administrators for the next academic year will remain at their current levels. Academic hiring will be “slowed,” and discretionary spending is suspended. The email also states, “Non-personnel expenditure reductions will be implemented. The details of implementation will be directed by the provost through the work with deans, vice presidents, and other leaders.”

The university will maintain its current level of financial support for students, and increase it for those with “increased demonstrated need.”


Christian Belanger graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017. He has previously written for South Side Weekly, Chicago magazine and the Chicago Reader.

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