As colleges around the country map out plans to reopen their campuses in the fall, they have embarked on some unique and pricey shopping expeditions: sourcing miles of plexiglass, hundreds of thousands of face masks and, in the case of the University of Central Florida, trying to get in an order for 1,200 hand-sanitizer stations before neighboring theme parks could buy them all up.
Costs for protective gear, cleaning supplies and labor for employees to take students’ temperatures and conduct hourly wipe-downs of doorknobs are already running into the millions of dollars.
The added expenses come as many schools face severe budget crunches due to lower enrollment and tuition revenue, refunded housing fees from the spring and costs tied to shifting online. Even well-resourced schools are trying to fundraise to stock up on supplies.
Reopening college campuses is contingent on approval from local health officials, who in some states haven’t yet signed off on campus-based instruction. Still, many schools remain hopeful and are pushing ahead with planning, with some already bringing student-athletes back for voluntary workouts.