California State University is better positioned to handle the new world of online learning this fall than in the spring, System Chancellor Timothy P. White said at a virtual town hall hosted by CALmatters.
White said his May decision to move most CSU courses online due to COVID-19 in the fall saved CSU valuable time to improve teaching, train teachers and provide students the laptops and Wi-Fi access they needed. CSU Monterey Bay begins classes Monday.
This decision made waves nationwide given CSUas the largest university system in the country with 480,000 students. Response has been divided, with some students and parents yearning for in-person classes, or at least tuition reductions, while others hailed the early signal to students of what fall will look like.
The move seems premonitory, as some of the country’s most prestigious institutions were forced to quickly switch to going live just before – or even after – the fall term has started. In California, UC Berkeley and University of Southern California, among others, later in the summer abandoned their original plans for some in-person classes.
About 93% of the roughly 81,000 courses offered by CSU this fall will be virtual, White said, calling it a “staggering achievement.”
For an hour, White and two of his senior lieutenants answered questions from the student audience and event moderators – Felicia Mello, editor-in-chief of the CalMatters College Journalism Network and Marisa Martinez, digital editor of University Times, the Cal State LA student newspaper. Students also posed questions to CSU system and campus officials in breakout sessions focused on specific issues.
Here are the best takeaways.
Life on campus will be very different
CSU’s residences will be at less than half of their normal capacity, White said. While in years without a pandemic, students group two or three at a time per dorm, social distancing protocols mean most rooms this fall will be singles. In newer dorms with more space, two students will share a room and still be able to stay six feet apart, White said. In these cases, plexiglass barricades will separate the beds and students will sleep from head to toe.
For the small number of courses that will be taught in person, such as labs, performing arts studios, and healthcare mannequin simulators, the number of students per class will drop dramatically. A typical lab with 20 students will grow to five, meaning the same class will need to be taught four times, White said.
COVID-19 tests will vary by campus
At least one CSU campus, Humboldt State, is testing the 1,000 dormitory students as they are moving in. The campus also requires students to self-isolate for two weeks.
But this is not the case at all with CSUs. The question was asked by a parent who wrote to town hall that she was surprised her daughter’s San Jose state campus did not test her when she moved into her dorm.
Federal Centers for Disease Control in june wrote that it “does not recommend entry tests for all returning students, faculty and staff.”
White said campuses will have isolation rooms for quarantined students who test positive. But, campus policies will vary based on county public health orders, said Luoluo Hong, associate vice chancellor of student affairs and enrollment management at CSU. The “best tools” to thwart the spread of the coronavirus are wearing masks, hand washing and social distancing, she said. Regarding general testing, “if the campuses have the resources, we definitely help them do it,” Hong added.
Contact tracing in cases where students test positive is part of residential housing plans, White said. Some of the health centers on CSU campuses offer testing, but in most of the others, students will have to go through county services, Hong said.
Instructors Should Be Better Prepared
When CSU switched to virtual education in March, classes were on a two-week hiatus to effect the change virtually. For fall, there’s more time to prepare, White and others said. Emily Magruder, director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning at CSU, said in a breakout session that in typical summers, campuses can have 25 to 50 faculty members who attend summer professional development courses. This summer, several campuses – including the state of San José – had over 1,000 teachers attending training courses.
The training focused on what content could be delivered on demand and how to get the most out of live or synchronous online teaching. One strategy is to assign students readings, short quizzes, and videos as homework while live instruction is where Zoom discussions and workshops take place. Not all students can attend live instruction due to work or family constraints, and the system did not require faculty, Magruder said.
CSU is still trying to get food and internet for students
The enrollment economy has plagued many students at CSU, a group that, even in times of economic boom, struggled with basic necessities like having enough food to eat. Over 40% of CSU students reported being food insecure, according to a 2018 system survey.
CSU officials at town hall touted some of the campus efforts to ease the full force of the recession for students.
Steve Relyea, executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer of CSU, said most campuses have turned their parking lots into Wi-Fi hotspots for students who don’t have internet connections at home. Campuses have also distributed $ 5 million in equipment to students in recent months, including laptops and access points, Relyea said.
That California is home to the tech industry and still has a large number of students without the Internet or computer equipment “is frankly simply unacceptable,” White said. He is on a post-secondary committee who responds to Governor Newsom and said its members advocate for public policy to bring broadband to all Californians.
Until that happened, White urged the students to stand up for themselves. If they can’t log in or have some other problem, they should let their professor or department chair know. Hong said campus staff are trained to look for signs that students may need more than one service. “The student may reach out due to financial issues, but indicate that there might be some emotional distress,” she said. The system is also exploring a contract with a virtual mental health company to provide students with more counseling options. Some campuses already have 24/7 emergency telephone lines.
One of the main sources of student aid is almost exhausted. Hong said campuses had distributed 92% of the $ 262 million in emergency aid the federal government had earmarked for CSU students.
Campuses still operate pantries, Hong said. To reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19, pantries now feature a week-long supply of food so students can grab them and go.
Tuition fees do not change
White said CSU will not change its tuition and mandatory fees for the fall. The explanation? CSU still offers additional courses and services that students are accustomed to, such as tutoring, library support, career development and student government, are still offered, only online.
While some colleges in the United States have lowered their tuition fees, they have mainly private institutions which costs over $ 50,000 per year to attend, much more than the $ 5,742 CSU for tuition (although campus specific fees ranging from around $ 840 to over $ 4,000).
Relyea said campuses would look into waiving fees that fund programs that students are not currently using, listing as examples transportation fees, lab course fees, event fees. sports, box office event fees and more.
The pandemic has also forced CSU to absorb the costs. it’s refunded nearly $ 150 million until July to students for fees related to services like parking, accommodation and meals last spring, according to data CalMatters requested from CSU about its coronavirus-related spending. State budget cuts resulted in a decline of $ 300 million in support for CSU, more than the $ 262 million the system got emergency federal aid this year. If Congress and President Trump agree on another stimulus package by Oct. 15, the state budget says CSU could claw back some or all of its state cuts.
But even if those funds arrive, the CSU expects three years of fiscal restraint, White said.