Ithaca College staff and administration members answered questions about tuition, academics, services on campus, housing and taking a leave of absence at the All-Student Gathering on Aug. 19 in the wake of the college’s decision to hold Fall 2020 classes remotely.
President Shirley M. Collado explained the decision to make classes online for Fall 2020 during the gathering, saying the public health risks regarding the COVID-19 pandemic would be too high if students were to return to campus. The seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 tests for Tompkins County is 0.1% as of Aug. 21, according to New York state data.
Collado said she understands students’ disappointment about this decision. She said the college only recently made this decision because she and other administrators were waiting to get more information on the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wanted to remain hopeful up until the very last possible day,” Collado said. “Things around our country have continued to move in the wrong direction.”
Tuition will not be lowered for Fall 2020, said Laurie Koehler, vice president for marketing and enrollment strategy. Koehler said grant awards will not change, but, if tuition was lowered, financial aid would have to be reduced.
Koehler said a tuition reduction is not necessary because faculty members are prepared to teach their courses effectively.
“You’re going to continue to receive and earn academic credit, have access to faculty support and mentorship, academic course content specific to your program of study and a learning experience that we believe is excellent provided by our scholars and practitioners in the classroom,” Koehler said.
Sources at an all-college faculty and staff meeting Aug. 18, said Bill Guerrero, vice president for finance and administration, said that with the remote Fall 2020, there is an $8 million deficit. If Spring 2021 is online as well, the college is facing between a $30 million and $50 million deficit. Guerrero did not make a presentation at the student gathering Aug. 19.
Candy Ross, interim director of student financial services, said students will not be charged for housing or meal plans. The bill deadline is extended to Sept. 8 and will only include tuition, Ross said.
La Jerne Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said the academic calendar will not change to include more breaks. Classes will begin Sept. 8, and the last day of finals will be Dec. 18.
“Academic continuity is most important, and this allows us to ensure academic continuity,” Cornish said.
Cornish said that students will be able to see if their classes are synchronous or asynchronous on Homer Connect within the next week.
The deadline to request a leave of absence will be at the end of the add/drop period Sept. 14.
Rosanna Ferro, vice president for student affairs and campus life, encouraged students to put off requesting a leave of absence until they have completed one or two weeks of classes. Ross said that students have until the end of the first week of classes to request a leave of absence before there is a tuition liability.
Marsha Dawson, director of the Office of Residential Life, said students who had housing assignments for Fall 2020 will be able to keep those assignments for Spring 2021.
The deadline for incoming students to defer their enrollment for Fall 2020 or the 2020–21 academic year has been extended to Sept. 4, Koehler said.
Faculty members will have the option to teach their classes remotely, from classrooms or from their offices, Cornish said. Cornish said student course evaluations will be resumed for Fall 2020. The college did not have student course evaluations for Spring 2020 because of the unexpected transition to remote learning.
Cornish said graduate and some senior students in the Department of Physical Therapy will be permitted to return to campus for physical therapy boot camp. The physical therapy boot camp lasts four to six weeks. Students with extenuating circumstances may also be allowed to live on campus and can submit a form to request on-campus housing.
However, Dawson said that few students will be accepted to live on campus.
“Just to manage expectations a little bit, it really should be for extenuating circumstances and for students that have core hardships,” Dawson said. “We certainly want to support the students that are in need but just not to give the impression that it’s going to be guaranteed for all.”
Dawson said the Office of Residential Life is working to facilitate virtual residential community experiences and offer services for off-campus students.
The college began testing faculty, staff and students who are living on and off campus, said Ellyn Sellers-Selin, medical services director of the Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness. She said that Hammond Health Center services will be available for students who are living on and off campus. Services will be offered in person and remotely, she said.
Dean of Students Bonnie Prunty said that the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has been providing services for students remotely since March and will continue to offer these services throughout the semester. Students who do not live in New York state may not be able to receive remote counseling because counseling licensure requirements vary by state, Prunty said. She said CAPS staff can still meet with these students to help them find local mental health resources.
Ferro said The Pantry, the on-campus food pantry, will be open, but the college has not made any decisions regarding the opening of the Fitness Center or the library.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Aug. 17 that gyms will be allowed to open Aug. 24 at limited capacity, but Ferro said the college is still deciding whether the Fitness Center will be open.
Students who purchased parking permits for the 2020-21 academic year will receive a full refund, and permits will not be required to park on campus until Feb. 5, 2021. Permits for Spring 2021 will be $70 for upperclassmen and $250 for freshmen.
Susan Bassett, associate vice president and director of the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, said the college has not made a decision regarding winter sports. The college suspended intercollegiate athletics for the Fall 2020 season. The Liberty League has also canceled league competitions and championships until Dec. 31.
Collado re–emphasized the difficulty of this decision at the end of the gathering and encouraged students to support the college.
“I know that there’s a lot of noise and negative energy,” Collado said. “I’m asking you to rise and be with us so that we can weather the storm together.”