A new state audit shows Santa Fe College saw a 10% decrease in revenue during its last fiscal year, but the effects on the college’s operation were minimal thanks to cost-cutting and donor MacKenzie Scott’s $40 million largesse made in December.
A drop in tuition and auxiliary revenue accounts for most of the decrease, according to Andy Barnes, Santa Fe’s vice president of administrative affairs. Summer enrollment declined as uncertainty about how classes would function in a pandemic increased. The college also allowed students to retake classes at a later date when COVID-19 hit Gainesville, further cutting into tuition revenue.
The college’s teaching zoo, planetarium, fine arts hall, bookstore and food services also brought in less money than they normally would. Still, with fewer people utilizing campus facilities, Santa Fe also spent less money on utilities and in-person class materials.
“There had been an initiative to move more toward a paperless environment prior to covid,” Barnes said, “but this really accelerated it.”
There also wasn’t as much demand for part-time staff, like adjunct professors and lab assistants.
The college is now trending toward pre-pandemic enrollment numbers as it concludes its planning stage for the next five years. The plan includes using Scott’s donation, which is equivalent to half the college’s yearly budget, and stimulus money to enhance the overall student experience rather than fund daily operations.
“We received the money because we have been identified as a successful and proven conduit to provide people opportunities,” Barnes said. “Whether it be traditional students – your regular 18-year-old who’s coming out of high school who maybe doesn’t have the means or resources to get into college or doesn’t understand what college can do for them – to career changers who maybe were a teacher for 10 years and now want to go back and be a nurse.”
The most immediate use of the donation will be announced between now and the fall semester. Meanwhile, the Blount Center expansion project on West University Avenue and Northwest 6th Street, which was budgeted at $36 million, is expected to be completed by the school’s next winter break, Barnes said.
The Florida Senate is working to provide legal liability protection for colleges that would shield them from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Santa Fe student Rachel Burke last week began the process of filing such a suit against the college, claiming in her complaint that she and other students “did not receive the benefits of the on-campus services for which their fees were paid.”