It’s National College Decision Day, Though Fall Semesters Remain Undecided


May 1st is often the day high school seniors have to decide what college they will attend in the fall. Some schools traditionally set June 1st at the date, but this year tradition has taken a backseat to precaution and in a very fluid situation schools are trying to offer incoming freshman guidance to the extent they can.

Dr. Yvonne Romero da Silva is Vice President for Enrollment at Rice University, and says Rice is holding to the May 1st deadline, but adds that as always, they’ll consider extenuating circumstances. She says their top priority is the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. (see letter below from Rice’s president) The Owls are updating their website as information becomes available, and are reaching out to incoming and returning students with details.

Dr. Mardell Maxwell is the University of Houston Executive Director of Admissions and says they’ve honor the May 1st date but prefer to allow students until June 1st to make a decision. Dr. Maxwell says all Texas institutions of higher learning have a desire to be face-to-face on campus in the fall, but safety is their first priority and data is their guide. Students can attend a virtual orientation with a lowered fee. Most schools are making choices much like U of H’s plan to consider three possible scenarios: 1) fully on campus 2) fully online 3) a mix of the two. And like most schools, more direction is anticipated by the end of May or early June. (see the president’s letter below) Dr. Maxwell says there are a wealth of resources available for students and with their parents they should avail themselves of what’s applicable for their situation. “Really tap into the resources out there. Institutions such as the University of Houston are really working hard to create more opportunities to help students pay for college: we’ve got book grants, a technology grant, our Cougar Emergency Fund.” He advises that students check their school’s website for updates on resources. Most importantly, Maxwell says, is that interested students should not be discouraged by the uncertainty. “Because there are too many people and resources out here to help you. If your aspiration is to go to college – you can do it! You might need some additional help and guidance on the way but you can absolutely do it.” You’ll find the same resilient spirit at all schools.

The Aggies have their hearts, and plans, in the game for the fall semester, and hope to be fully operational for students to attend classes in person, and would also like the football team on the field if possible. As to National College Day, these are the answers they provided to KTRH News’ questions:

1. What are you doing for National College Day?

a. Our recruiters are actively reaching out to students via phone, email, and 1 on 1 online meetings to discuss final decisions. (not just bc of ‘national college decision day’ event)

b. We will be active on social media reminding students of the deadline.

c. Students will also be receiving text and email reminders from the Admissions Office tonight.

1. Have any deadlines been changed due to Covid?

a. We extended the required application materials deadline for transfer applicants to 5/1 and many graduate programs have extended deadlines for individual programs.

b. The Freshman response deadline remains 5/1 but we will consider requests for students who believe they are unable to meet that deadline based on COVID.

The Longhorns sent an update to UT Austin employees saying they expect to have definitive news on their fall plans by the end of June. (read their letter below) Registration is underway now for summer and fall classes, and students are encouraged to make their selections to assist the university in making assessments of what to prepare for. No word yet on Longhorn football.

Sam Houston State University expects Huntsville to come alive in the fall as students return to sit in classrooms, dependent on circumstances with Covid19 in coming months. SHSU President Dana Hoyt told employees this week emergency operations will end May 26 and staff will begin returning to campus. Buildings will open July 1.

In talking to all of the admissions directors, the overwhelming impression each leaves is of their abiding compassion for students and the challenges students are facing in these historic times, an unyielding encouragement to continue forward, and an irrepressible optimism for the future.

Letter to students from University of Houston

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you and your families are safe and healthy. We have come to the end of this very unusual spring semester. Thanks to your efforts, which included transitioning thousands of classes and services online, more than 6,000 students will graduate next week. Congratulations … to all of us!

Here are some important updates for you.

Reopening the University: Earlier this week, Gov. Abbott announced a plan to safely reopen Texas. I had already appointed a UH System Reopening Task Force under the co-chairmanship of Vice Chancellor Amr Elnashai and UHV President Robert Glenn. The task force approved seven guiding principles and nine questions to be answered before reopening the system universities. In consultation with the task force, we are reopening the University in four phases: (1) research operations (2) low-touch, low-risk administrative operations (3) all operations and athletics, and finally (4) classroom instruction.

On Tuesday, May 5, research labs at UH can be opened by those researchers who wish to do so. This is voluntary, not mandatory. Certain administrative services necessary to assist the researchers will also open. The Division of Research will soon send out an email with details.

A few measures have been taken to ensure a safe working environment as we reopen that include:

1. Anyone working in a lab will be required to complete a training module, pass a self-health screening test and is expected to cooperate with contact tracing. The training and screening can be found on AccessUH beginning Friday, May 1.

2. All CDC and state rules of social distancing will be followed, including the use of face masks if anyone is working in close proximity of others (within 6 feet).

3. UH Facilities will adhere to strict rules to clean and disinfect common spaces and arrangements must be made to clean and disinfect lab areas per CDC guidelines.

4. Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 or suffering from any respiratory illness will not be allowed in labs.

5. Lab personnel will follow proper UH protocol if a positive COVID-19 case is identified in a lab.

We are closely monitoring public health conditions in the state and the city and will provide further instructions for the next phase based on future developments. Until then, all faculty and staff –with the exception of those who choose to open their labs or are classified as essential support personnel – will continue to work from home.

Summer semester: All summer sessions will be taught online. In view of financial difficulties faced by students, the Board of Regents has waived some fees for summer enrollees, saving many more than $300 per student. At this point, our summer enrollment looks very strong and we hope to continue the trend.

Fall semester: We expect to resume face-to-face instruction in the fall. However, we are making plans for three scenarios: fully online, fully on campus, and some form of hybrid. Depending on the public health conditions in the city, we will make that determination sometime in late May or early June.

Commencement: Knowing that our students want to walk across the stage, we have postponed May’s commencement exercise until fall. However, several colleges are hosting virtual memory-sharing events, and we will also do something symbolic to recognize this very important milestone in our graduates’ life.

Emergency aid to students: The CARES ACT included $18 million in direct emergency aid to UH students. From these funds, we are able to provide support to more than 26,000 students. While we are grateful for these funds, we know that the need is far greater than the allotted funds. The Cougar Emergency Fund, which is supported by donations, will offer additional assistance to students in need. Finding another way to help, our IT department secured 300 loaner computers for students who were without that vital educational tool.

University Budget: Our fiscal year ends at the end of August, so it is difficult to predict the exact loss of revenue for the University. The final number will depend upon three factors: state budget reduction, summer and fall enrollment, and available federal or state stimulus funds. Looking at the impact of COVID 19 on the overall economy and the declining state resources because of the oil crisis, it’s logical to assume that our budget will be stressed. I have appointed a Financial Task Force under the chairmanship of Provost Paula Short and Senior Vice President Jim McShan to review all financial tools at our disposal. We are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best and always keeping the well-being of our Cougar family in mind.

Thank you, once again, for your dedicated service. If you have any questions, you can direct them to the chairs of the Financial Task Force or send them to COVID-19 email (coronavirus@uh.edu) or check the COVID-19 website for updates and new information.

Please stay safe and healthy!

With warm regards,

Renu Khator

Letter to Students from Rice University

A message from President Leebron

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 1:30pm

Dear Parents,

Most important, I hope this note finds you and your family well. These are the most challenging and unusual times for our world in my lifetime, and likely the same is true for you. The combination of the spread of this deadly pandemic, plus the economic and emotional consequences of social isolation, have been visited on families across the globe.

Last week your child, now a young adult, completed the last class of this most unusual spring semester. We recognize how challenging the end of this school year has been for our students. But today I write to recognize equally how challenging it has been for their parents and families. I know that our students have needed your support more than ever, and that in some cases the burden of caring for and supporting them has added to stress in your households.

All of us are managing these circumstances in the best way that we can. A small number -- a bit more than 250 -- of your children remained on our campus, primarily because international travel was not possible. Some are staying with friends or relatives. But the majority are home with you. While of course we enjoy having our children with us whatever their age, it can also pose challenges in ensuring that they have the right environment for completing their academic work. Thus I wanted to take a moment today to thank you for working with us to support your student. We are grateful that you and your student chose to become members of the Rice community. We and you have done all we can to get them through this year. And we know they will need our support, whether they are graduating now or continuing in the fall, to flourish during and after this terrible pandemic.

For those whose students are not graduating, we know you are wondering what the fall will bring. As you can imagine, we are constantly assessing the situation. No one really knows how the pandemic will progress, and we are balancing the value of being able to plan on the basis of concrete decisions with the value of making the best decision when more information is available. Whatever our decisions, we will need to be flexible as the situation evolves. Based on the state of the disease spread in Houston and Texas, as well as the trajectory around the country, we are cautiously optimistic about opening our campus for students in the fall. We are working hard to make sure all the right measures are in place for that. We expect to have some preliminary communications regarding the fall by the end of next week. Over the summer, we will resolve how to best balance the imperative for safety while maintaining the great college experience your children have enjoyed and look forward to returning to.

Of course, the semester isn’t quite over as most of our students still have exams and papers to complete over the next 10 days. As you may have heard, we have adopted flexible arrangements on grading, pass-fail and dropping of courses, again recognizing the very different circumstances for each of our students and their families. Even after exams are over, many students will face questions about how they can productively spend the summer. Recognizing this, we have made summer classes available to Rice students at one fourth the normal cost, and students who receive financial aid qualify for an additional reduction.

We will write again soon with more definitive information on our fall plans. In the meantime, please know that we are deeply grateful for what you are doing to sustain your Rice Owl through this time.

With warmest regards and gratitude,

David

Letter to students from University of Texas Austin:

April 22, 2020

Dear UT Community,

We know that this is a semester like no other. It has been challenging and uncertain. Yet what every Longhorn also knows is that our community of students, faculty and staff is also like no other. Your imagination, spirit, energy and passion are leading us forward, and we sincerely thank you for all that you are doing for The University of Texas.

Now, as we near the final weeks of spring semester, the university is looking to the future and evaluating options for how we will teach, research, learn and operate during the fall.

We will continue UT’s mission to educate our students during the fall semester and hope to reopen the campus to do so, but we recognize that our nation will still be facing COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. As a result, we need to determine what the risks will be and how we can mitigate those risks by examining the ways we teach students and schedule classes, operate research labs and coordinate housing for students who live on and near the Forty Acres.

We expect to announce the university’s plans for the fall semester by the end of June. This timing will enable faculty to prepare their classes and curriculums so that they can deliver the extraordinary educational experiences UT is known for. It will also provide time for our dedicated staff members to reopen the facilities, integrate new learning technologies and prepare to implement new health-conscious practices and policies. In late June, we will have more information about the state of the COVID-19 crisis, and a strategy to help students plan for the fall semester will be in place.

During the months ahead, we will be working to answer many questions: How and when can we safely bring students, faculty and staff back to the Forty Acres? How do we expand testing for COVID-19? What will social distancing look like on campus? How can we enhance the online learning experience? When will the Longhorn football team be able to take the field at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium again?

These and other questions are being evaluated by a university-wide task force to assess our operations for the fall semester. This task force is being led by Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing and director of UT’s IC² Institute. He is overseeing a planning team that is directing subgroups, each charged with a specific sector of campus life and learning. These subgroups are harnessing the talent and expertise of UT faculty, staff and undergraduate and graduate students, while coordinating with city and state officials as well as off-campus housing providers.

The results of this university-wide assessment will help UT students prepare for success in the fall semester. And it is very important that current students register for summer and fall courses starting April 27. By knowing which classes our students are taking in advance, we will be able to develop a plan for coursework and academic delivery this fall. Current students can learn more about how to register for classes here.

As we look ahead, there is much to prepare for. But one thing is certain: The University of Texas will make it through all of these challenges together, and we’ll end up stronger and more prepared to do what we do best — change the world.

Stay safe, stay healthy and be well!

Sincerely,

Gregory L. Fenves

President

Letter to students from Texas A&M:

April 30, 2020

Howdy Students,

As the semester draws to a close, I cannot thank you enough for your flexibility and resilience, especially over the past six weeks. Just thinking about how you – the largest student body in the nation – rapidly responded to so many changes is both humbling and awe-inspiring:

• More than 1,000 of you quickly adapting international travel plans, with more than 280 of you safely returning from overseas and self-isolating when asked to do so;

• More than 57,000 of you participating in online classes, working with faculty across nearly 13,800 class sections; and

• Many of you answering the call to serve as only Aggies do – including nursing students who opted to expedite your instruction early and members of the military who were activated.

Thank you!

Next week, 10,796 of you are expected to graduate. While spring commencement, as we know, has been postponed, we will mark in a number of special ways the conferral of degrees.

This summer, we’re fully online and enrollment is actually up, a sign that you remain undeterred in pursuing your goals. We will advise about plans for August commencement by the end of May.

In the fall, our Aggiebound Aggies numbers are also up. While we know online classes are an option if needed, we plan to be fully open and operational, with dedicated faculty and staff leaning into preparing for all the requirements necessary to do so safely across academics, athletics and campus activities. We will continue to keep you updated in detail for plans to open responsibly, and will, of course, follow updated federal, state officials and healthcare guidance that dictate our ability to do so.

It’s been quite a semester! We love you and wish you and your families safety and happiness as we continue to move forward together.

Sincerely,

Michael K. Young

President


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