“Our message is that you don’t have to shut down,” GMU President Gregory Washington said in an interview on Tuesday. “You actually can manage this thing.”
However, the public health emergency has driven up operating costs while drying up revenues at Mason and other higher education institutions in Virginia.
“Clearly, what the governor has proposed will be a benefit to currently struggling institutions,” Washington said.
Business leaders also welcomed the governor’s debt restructuring plan.
Gil Minor, chairman of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, called the plan “an important step in the commonwealth’s response to the unprecedented challenges facing Virginia’s higher education system and the students and communities they serve.”
The General Assembly would have to approve the portion of the plan that would refinance about $823 million in debt approved by the state Treasury and save institutions about $109 million in deferred payments over two years. The proposed refinancing would require the approval of two-thirds of each legislative chamber when the assembly convenes in January for a 46-day session.
The governor would not require legislative approval for the other part of the plan, which would refinance about $1.5 billion in debt and save higher education institutions $190 million through fiscal 2022-2023. Northam authorized the restructuring of those debts immediately.