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Smith Plaza stands vacant on April 15, 2020 in Albuquerque, NM. The University of New Mexico has recently restricted public access to campus in response to COVID-19.

COVID cost UNM nearly $50 million in lost revenue

The novel coronavirus hit the University of New Mexico’s budget hard.

Teresa Costantinidis, UNM vice president for finance and administration, told a Board of Regents Committee that COVID-19 has cost UNM $49.8 million in lost revenue. 

Administrators didn’t say what actions they might take to stem off repercussions of the revenue lost beyond lobbying the federal government for more relief. However, Provost James Holloway told the Daily Lobo that UNM is under a hiring freeze with an undetermined end date. 

“We do expect (for fiscal year 2020) additional allocations of approximately $10 million in total,” Costantinidis said. 

Most of it, Costantinidis said, would come from the rest of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

UNM has already received $8.6 million from the federal government through the CARES Act, but that money wasn’t included in Tuesday’s report since all of it was mandated for students, according to Costantinidis. 

While UNM Hospital’s net revenue losses ($22.8 million) and Health Science Center (HSC) net losses ($17.4 million) made up the biggest chunks, housing and meal plan refunds ($9.6 million) played a major role, according to budget documents. 

Last academic year, housing and food services pulled in about $2.3 million for UNM’s $255 million budget. With a $9.6 million hit, that won’t be happening. 

It’s unclear how, or if, subsequent federal aid packages will affect UNM.  

Another major revenue source for UNM is the state government. 

In April, Costantinidis told the Daily Lobo that UNM was still budget building with the state’s pre-COVID finances in mind. 

“When we go back multiple years, we find we had different numbers of students in different programs, a different mix of employees, and surprisingly different operating costs,” Costantinidis said. “Salaries and benefits are our biggest budget drivers, so the prior year gives us the closest picture of what it would take to operate similarly for another full year.”

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The state’s budget (and by extension UNM’s budget) was drastically impacted by the loss of tax revenue from closures and the collapse of global oil prices, a major source of New Mexican revenue. 

On Feb. 3, when state lawmakers passed the spending bill to the governor, oil prices were starting to fall amid fears the virus might become global. That day, crude oil was worth $49.92 per barrel. 

On April 21, crude oil was worth $11.17, one of it’s lowest points in history, according to a number of crude oil price indexes. 

As such, Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith (D) and House Speaker Brian Egolf (D) told multiple media outlets last month that a special session was imminent. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham would have to call a special session — something her press secretary told the Albuquerque Journal said she would do “as soon as it’s safe.”

Justin Garcia is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @Just516garc

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