As college students and instructors settle in with new online formats and the course of the COVID-19 situation remains uncertain, institutions in Waco are continuing to adapt and prepare.
Baylor University and McLennan County College have both announced plans to hold all summer classes online, while Texas State Technical College’s staff will work from home until at least May 4 and extend classes to accommodate lab requirements once students return to campus.
Meanwhile, Baylor is navigating reimbursements for on-campus services not being used and working to ensure students have the financial help they need.
MCC President Johnette McKown and Baylor President Linda Livingstone each made announcements Thursday on the decisions to keep classes online through the summer.
“If we are able to re-open campus at some point in the summer, we will supplement the summer sessions with face-to-face classes,” Livingstone wrote in a statement. “For the fall semester, we are planning for campus to be open and for classes to be conducted in a traditional face-to-face manner.”
According to a press release, TSTC’s online courses will continue, while all other classes will be extended until May 29 to give students more time to finish lab requirements.
Registration for summer courses is starting soon, which meant officials needed to make a decision on summer courses despite the unknowns that remain in the response to the coronavirus.
“With early registration beginning on Tuesday, we felt the need to give our students as much certainty as we could,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said. “We have many students from around the country who have to plan travel and living arrangements, and these two things are significant unknowns.”
Livingstone also announced Bear Care, a program that will enlist faculty and staff to serve as “coaches” to help students make the adjustment to online learning. The university also plans to expand summer offerings and encouraged students to fill out a “summer wish list” form explaining what courses would be most helpful to students.
The decisions come while Baylor is still working to reimburse students no longer living in residence halls for the meal plans, housing and parking, among other things, they have not been able to use.
Students who left dorms at spring break and never returned will be given credits for their room rates, parking passes no longer in use will be reimbursed with a $100 credit, and money for meals plans will roll over to the next semester. Students working at the university through federal work-study will receive a lump payment based on the three previous pay periods before the closure.
During a Facebook Live stream held Tuesday, Livingstone said students on work-study would receive roughly what they would have been paid if they had continued working to the end of the semester.
“We hope that that’s very helpful to some of our students, who no longer have those funds coming in,” Livingstone said.
General student fees and lab fees will not be refunded, and tuition will remain the same, according to a university FAQ page.
Refunds for graduating seniors, whose housing and meal credits have no “next year” to roll over to, will be processed by April 8.
“Also, if a student is getting a housing credit and will be living off-campus next year, the credit would be applied to the cost of attendance,” Fogleman said.
The university has also been encouraging students in need to apply for assistance from the President’s Excellence Fund, a fund that can award up to $1,000 per student in an academic year.
“The fund was created to provide a way for alumni, parents and friends to make philanthropic gifts that allow the university to address emerging needs quickly,” Fogleman said.
The university had received 1,066 requests, for a total of more than $1 million, and awarded 332 as of Thursday, she said.
The fund has long existed, but the university is directing students affected by COVID-19 to apply and encouraging alumni who want to help to donate directly to the fund.
“We also have an application process by which students can submit requests for financial help if they’re experiencing significant need at this point in time,” Livingstone said during the same livestream.
She said the money could be used for anything from technology needs, like a new laptop for online coursework, to basic needs like food and rent.
“We’ve had a huge number of requests there and are doing everything we can to try to meet those needs in ways that are appropriate within the context of the financial aid guidelines that we have,” Livingstone said.
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