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State of the University

From President Katherine A. Rowe

Work & Learn

This year’s financial report comes at a time of most pressing need for our university, our commonwealth and our nation. COVID-19 has disrupted how we work and learn. The pandemic brought on an economic recession and the long-term impact and timeline for recovery remain unclear.

Rising to meet extraordinary challenges

Like so many institutions, William & Mary feels profoundly the strain of this environment. This report details the university’s current fiscal reality and its financial forecast for fiscal year 2021 (FY21). Rising to meet the challenges we face will require openness to innovation and a commitment to the long view, even in the midst of deep uncertainty. We are proud of how we have navigated this crisis so far and see reason for hope, as detailed below.

Two masked students comfortably sitting and studying together in the Botetourt Gallery on the ground floor of Swem Library

“We have faced adversity in this country before and at William & Mary. My focus is on ensuring the Alma Mater of the Nation stays adaptive and resilient.”  —President Katherine A. Rowe

W&M community united to confront pandemic

In March, William & Mary put forth four goals to guide our COVID-19 response:

  1. Safeguard the health of our community
  2. Sustain our learning mission
  3. Maintain the university’s research and operations
  4. Flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19

For the sake of these goals, we transformed almost every aspect of university life. We invested in remote learning, protective equipment and cleaning resources. We rolled back a planned tuition increase for the 2020-21 academic year, knowing the increased financial stress on our students and families. We also sustained significant losses from study abroad, summer programs, athletics, housing, dining and parking. Based on these added expenses and diminished revenue, we forecasted losses ranging from $13 million to $32 million from April through August 2020.

Seeing the Alma Mater of the Nation come together to take on this challenge was inspiring. Alumni, students, parents and friends gave generously to the Fund for W&M, the lifeblood of the university in times of crisis. Gifts to the HEART Fund and the International Students’ Fund provided aid to students with urgent need. The Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation supported faculty as they moved 2,000-plus courses online. Our staff limited spending through a hiring freeze, travel restrictions and suspended discretionary spending. Together, Provost Peggy Agouris and COO Amy Sebring led a mission-critical budget review across all units on campus for FY21. This process represents a significant first step in the university’s move toward a more inclusive and comprehensive planning process across unrestricted fund sources.

Because of these sustained efforts, we held our losses to the low end of the forecast and successfully closed our For the Bold campaign.

Passion & Courage

On June 30, William & Mary crossed the finish line of For the Bold, raising more than $1 billion. Through the campaign, W&M secured its spot as the No. 1 public university for alumni participation and strengthened alumni engagement, tripling the number of alumni who engage with each other and W&M.

A For the Bold celebration event with people congregated and talking in the atrium of a museum

“We talk a lot about this campaign being an investment in people, and what we’ve been able to do is invest in people who are tackling some of the greatest challenges we will ever face in our lifetime. We’ve invested in people who are taking risks during a time of incredible change and transformation, and in people who have the passion and courage to lead during moments of great difficulty and uncertainty.”  —Vice President for University Advancement Matthew T. Lambert ’99

Closing For the Bold amid crisis

For the Bold created extraordinary experiences and opportunities that advance W&M’s most cherished values: belonging, excellence, curiosity, flourishing and service. A full picture of the impact is available at

Here are a few FY20 highlights:

  • W&M raised more than $149.9 million in FY20, setting a new record as the single largest fundraising year ever, even in the midst of a pandemic.
  • A $19.3 million gift established a new Institute for Integrative Conservation, positioning W&M at the forefront of research and learning to protect the environment.
  • With funding from a $10 million gift, a Veteran-to-Executive Transition program will become a national model for accelerating professional transitions to civilian life.
  • One Tribe One Day (OTOD) brought a surge of support for areas of campus best positioned to accelerate equity and change, including the Lemon Project and the Center for Student In 24 hours, William & Mary raised $2.5 million, the largest dollar amount ever raised on OTOD.
  • OTOD also catapulted the campaign to fund the new Memorial to the Enslaved — an important step towards reconciling with W&M’s history — creating the momentum to reach its $2 million fundraising

An upwelling of generosity funded innovative initiatives that will forge new paths for years to come. We raised $303 million for the campaign’s top priority: scholarships. We embraced excellence in academics and in athletics, with more than $105 million raised in support of faculty and the announcement of a reimagined Athletics Complex.

What we achieved stands as a testament to this community’s dedication to alma mater, and to our incredible Advancement staff. As we look to the future of operating amid pandemic, we will need to rely on this care and continued commitment more than ever.

Invest & Lead

We continue to gain clarity around the scope of COVID-19’s financial impact. We project a shortfall in FY21 surpassing $30 million and potentially reaching $100 million, with great uncertainty in between.

The sobering outlook for FY21

W&M has taken proactive, judicious action to mitigate the impact of this shortfall. We have extended the hiring freeze and restrictions on travel and discretionary spending. I, along with the provost and chief operating officer, have taken a voluntary salary reduction through the end of the 2020 calendar year.

A masked student in casual attire and carrying a skateboard, walks through the lobby of Miller Hall and towards a masked Pierre L'Enfant statue and Welcome Home banner..

As challenging as this moment is, we are seeing profound growth. There is going to be no snap back to 2019.”  —President Katherine A. Rowe

With a shortfall of this magnitude, we will face wrenching decisions. So I ask that this community keep returning to our lodestar: our clear and compelling mission. W&M brings together brilliant students with exceptional faculty and staff to teach, learn and pursue knowledge.

At a moment when so many students in our nation risk losing momentum towards their degrees, we feel great pride that W&M has offered our students the ability to study either remotely or here on campus — as best meets their learning needs. As of this writing, we have achieved what very few institutions in the country have accomplished. Via a comprehensive testing program and a whole-institution commitment to mask-wearing and social distancing norms, we are succeeding so far in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our campus community. Great credit goes to W&M students, staff and faculty for being all in and adapting in such positive ways.

Resilience and generosity under adversity

This report maps the sobering financial landscape we now navigate. In sharing these difficult realities, we invite the partnership of our community to craft innovative solutions.

In the past year, I have seen our students and families, alumni, faculty, staff, neighbors and friends unite in the face of challenges more significant than any we could have imagined a year ago. We have a responsibility to ensure that William & Mary continues to flourish for the next 300 years. We go forward trusting in the resilience of our community as a whole to see the Alma Mater of the Nation through.

Best regards,

Katherine A. Rowe