TWU is reducing fees this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic and making plans to return to the campus in the coming months, according to an email from Chancellor Feyten earlier this week.
Summer fees reduced, emergency aid being dispersed
TWU reduced summer bills by $223 Thursday, eliminating the Student Center Fee and Fitness Fee amid uncertainty about when students will be able to return to campus to use these services. The move was based on guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, which directed universities to channel half the aid received from the federal stimulus package known as the CARES Act to reducing financial barriers on students’ paths to graduation. Students who already paid their summer tuition in full will receive a refund for the credited amount.
The other half of the $8,683,388 TWU reportedly received as part of the CARES Act is being dispersed in emergency financial aid grants to students, who received email notice of the fund’s availability Tuesday from the office of Student Life. Though the funds are a separate pool from the Student Emergency Fund, which is funded by donors, students can apply for both through the same application.
TWU dispersed $300,000 in stimulus funds the first day, and Feyten expects applications will continue to pour in.
“Given the rates of unemployment in the state, the sectors most impacted, and the work many students take [on] while in college, I expect we have only seen the tip of the iceberg for student financial need,” Feyten said in an email to The Lasso.
Once students apply, administrators work to determine eligibility and select the best source of aid for each student.
“We are employing a coordinated approach with other sources of aid by using a single application,” Feyten said. “Each source has its restrictions. We don’t want to exhaust one source while another still has funds for which no one is eligible.
“For example, a single donor gave $50k for nursing students. We would want to direct nursing students who apply for aid to that fund, leaving less restrictive funds for other majors.”
Students are contacted within five business days of their application regarding their aid request.
Plans for faculty and staff to return to campus this summer
Though most classes will be fully online this summer, TWU is making plans for a staggered return to campus over the coming months.
With the statewide stay-at-home order expired April 30, Feyten announced tentative plans for faculty and staff to return to campus. Apart from essential employees like those in Housing and Dining, public safety officers and custodians that remained to support the almost 400 students still living on campus, some departments like the Office of the Bursar plan to offer a limited window of in-person service in early May.
A quarter of TWU staff will return to campus beginning June 1, while “by early July, we hope most everyone is able to return to our campuses,” Feyten said.
Feyten said she and other emergency management officials on campus met daily to develop a plan that would help mitigate some of the uncertainty surrounding the coming months.
“We are in this together, and we have built this plan together,” Feyten said. “We still have details to work out but having the framework will hopefully allow students to move forward with making their plans now.”
Fall to bring extra precautions, more class options
While TWU plans to have students, faculty and staff back on campuses in the fall, the return will bring more flexible class options and more protective equipment.
“After this past semester, we all understand better how asynchronous coursework offers flexibility for those who have kids, caregiver obligations or jobs, to name a few,” Feyten wrote in an email update. “This fall you will see more delivery options—online, hybrid, face to face and variations of these—that enhance teaching and learning like never seen before.”
TWU is also installing more clear plastic barriers, more hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and encouraging mouth and nose covering with new signage amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 242,000 people worldwide. Administrators will also encourage students and faculty with symptoms to self-isolate, operating “with greater flexibility and personal responsibility,” Feyten said.
The Scientific Research Commons and the new space for the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership are expected to open in the fall as planned, and Feyten said she expects new research will be underway as the coronavirus “has offered new inspiration toward discovery.”
“The biggest takeaway has been seeing the incredible resiliency of our students as well as faculty and staff,” Feyten said. “Each has demonstrated innovative ways they have moved forward and adapted in the face of some pretty radical changes.”
Amber Gaudet can be reached at email@example.com.