RISD Finances and Financial Aid

Financial Assistance for Students

We acknowledge the many disruptions and constraints the pandemic imposes on campus life and activities, as well as the challenging economic circumstances our students and their families are facing. While the Board of Trustees approved a tuition and fee increase of 3.8 percent for the academic year 2020–2021, RISD is working to provide additional support to our students:

Cares Act Funding

RISD has applied for both components of the CARES Act funding totaling $1.4 million. Fifty percent of the funds will be awarded directly to qualified students and those awards will be made in August. The remaining funds will be used to offset lost institutional revenue from COVID-19.

In accordance with federal regulations for awarding of the CARES Act Funding, RISD has developed a policy to identify CARES Act recipients. Students who were enrolled in the Spring 2020 semester with a valid 2019-2020 FAFSA on file and a federal expected family contribution of less than $50,000 may be eligible to receive funding with a maximum amount of $1,100. These students will be contacted by Student Financial Services.

Please find more information, including the monthly disclosure status, on the Student Financial Services website.

Financial Aid and Emergency Funding

RISD increased funding for need-based scholarships and graduate fellowships by 23 percent. This will allow the Institution to provide more than $29 million in financial aid to students in 2020-21. If your financial situation has been impacted due to COVID-19 and you would like to learn more about additional funds you may be eligible for to assist in paying for your RISD education, please email sfs@risd.edu.

Student Employment

Students will continue to have opportunities to work on campus, although many jobs may be remote. All student employment wages will be paid based on hours worked as normal. Learn more about student employment opportunities.

Financial Impact on the College

The total financial impact from the spring, summer and next academic year will be at least $50 million. This is 30 percent of RISD’s total yearly operating budget and 10 times the $5 million deficit challenge the college faced during the 2008–2009 economic crisis.

Addressing the Spring and Summer Shortfall

The financial impact on RISD from canceling on-campus activity in spring and summer, lost revenues from room and board, continuing education and many related institutional activities, and FY21 adjustments for increased financial aid support totals approximately $20.4 million. RISD has addressed this deficit through reductions in support budgets, capital budgets, strategic investment funds and reserves. Specifically, the college has:

  • Used cash reserves of $7 million
  • Using CARES Act funding of $1.4 million (50% of which goes to direct support for students within a strict set of government parameters and the other 50% goes to COVID-related institutional support)
  • Reduced the FY21 capital budget by $3.5 million
  • Reduced the FY21 strategic plan budget by $1.8 million
  • Extended the hiring pause on most positions (beyond searches that were largely concluded for faculty positions and staff positions deemed essential), which saves $1 million from unfilled positions
  • Eliminated the proposed FY20 target financial margins of $1.5 million
  • Reduced support budgets (food, travel, events) by $1.5 million

Addressing Academic Year 2020-2021 Shortfall

As we learn more about the fall, it has become clear that RISD will face an additional impact of at least $30 million as a result of reduced revenue due to a minimum 13% decline in enrollment as well as significant investments that are being made (such as leasing of 200 beds off campus, restructuring our dining program, purchasing of PPE, increasing cleaning, investing in IT and reconfiguring our facilities among others).

We have agreed, with the Board’s approval, to reduce operating expenses by $16 million, approximately 10% of our overall budget. The path to get to $16 million was developed through the Budget Priorities Committee (BPC) who began meeting in April to arrive at a series of recommendations that Cabinet accepted. The $16 million does not cover the full impact, which will require RISD to borrow funds through its line of credit that will have to be repaid in subsequent years. To achieve the $16 million in reductions, the BPC recommended the following measures:

  • a one-year elimination of salary increases, which saves $2 million
  • a one-year elimination of the institutional retirement contribution except for a $1,000 contribution per eligible employee, which saves $4.05 million
  • a temporary, progressive salary reduction by level of income, which saves $2.9 million
    • $50k and less = 0%
    • $50-75k = 2%
    • $75-100 = 3%
    • $100-125k = 5%
    • $125-150k = 7.5%
    • $150-200 = 10%
    • $200+k = 13.5%
    • President/Provost = 15% originally planned, increased to 20%
  • additional capital budget reduction of $.5 million
  • additional support budget reduction of $.5 million
  • divisional-based reductions through support budgets and/or furloughs totaling $4.3 million
  • an early retirement incentive saving $1.5 million
  • Continuing Education course prioritization to save $250,000

Budget Priorities Committee

The Budget Priorities Committee (BPC) assesses key budget inputs and priorities and makes recommendations on future tuition, fees, room and board, financial aid, non-union salary increases, capital allocations and other key budget line items. The BPC will make recommendations to the Cabinet and President on the annual operating and capital budgets.


  • Anais Missakian – Professor, Fine Arts
  • Jennaca Davies – Assistant Professor, Industrial Design
  • Mickey Ackerman – Professor, Experimental & Foundation Studies
  • Leora Maltz-Leca – Associate Professor, Liberal Arts
  • Scheri Fultineer – Dean, Architecture + Design
  • Matthew Shenoda – Associate Provost, Social Equity & Inclusion & SEI Advisor to the President
  • Sarah Ganz Blythe – RISD Museum Deputy Director, Exhibitions, Education & Programs
  • Ginnie Dunleavy – Executive Director, Auxiliary Operations
  • Sarah Caggiano – Executive Director, Continuing Education
  • Felicita Devlin – 21 BFA Textiles
  • Andy Wang – 21 BFA Illustration
  • Aparna Sarkar – 21 MFA Painting
  • Dave Proulx – SVP for Finance and Administration (co-chair)
  • Kent Kleinman – Provost (co-chair)
  • Bob Hanke – Director, Budget & Financial Planning (staff to the committee)
  • Janine Connelly – Interim Director, Academic Budget & Resources (staff to the committee)

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