TIMING OF DECISION
Why did the college wait until the end of August to shift to remote learning?
We recognize that this decision comes late in the summer and the timing is extremely frustrating for many. The timing was a balancing act and we did not want to make a call too early if there was still a good probability of successfully holding in-person classes. Our teams have worked hard to put an effective opening plan in place and we were deeply disappointed to change course. However, given the trends we have been seeing across the U.S. and the experiences of many other colleges and universities, we felt this was the right decision for the safety of students, faculty and staff, as well as for our local area. We can assure you that this decision was based on data and guidance from public health officials, which we have been following closely through every stage of the pandemic. Our values as an institution call us to put the safety of our community first, even knowing such a decision may be unpopular or the timing not ideal.
When will we find out about the status of winter term?
Our intention is to have a decision made by the beginning of December. We have to caution that things can change very quickly with regards to this pandemic; however, our intention is to have a decision 30 days in advance.
TUITION, BILLING AND FINANCIAL AID
Will there be a reduction in tuition?
The College sets tuition and room-and-board fees at a level that will allow us to provide the type of personal and engaging academic experience you and your student have come to expect. We also rely on the College’s endowment and fundraising to balance our budget—tuition cannot cover all of our costs. For these reasons, the College is not reducing tuition as a result of the decision to move to a fully remote, virtual format for the fall term.
While the experience our students will have this year will be different, our faculty, and the staff who support them, are still committed to giving our students the best academic experience we can under these unprecedented conditions. Our class sizes are capped; we still have a low student-to-faculty ratio, which means we have more professors teaching smaller classes than other types of institutions. Even remotely, our faculty are accessible in ways that faculty at other, larger institutions are not. Our faculty have been preparing for online learning since June. Many faculty members have engaged in external professional development related to distance learning in their respective disciplines and have shared what they have learned with their colleagues. An immense set of resources dedicated to online teaching and learning has been created for support. Faculty have spent the summer developing and planning at the departmental level, creating robust online courses that are engaging and give students more opportunity to interact with their professors virtually. They’ve also taken into account student feedback on spring term—what worked and what could be improved.
Here is some financial information that might provide context for the reasons we are not reducing tuition.
For this academic year, net tuition (tuition after financial aid) is about $32.6 million. Salaries and benefits for all staff—faculty and those that support them—is over $27.3 million. The expenses in the academic departments and other departments that support the academic program (the library, student health and counseling, career development, etc.) account for approximately $12 million. These resources will still be available to our students, albeit in virtual and phone formats. The $12 million also includes support areas like admissions, financial aid, campus safety, the business office, information technology services, human resources and advancement. All of these areas need to operate regardless of whether students are on campus, and some, like advancement, bring in much needed gifts to support student financial aid and other programs. So our total tuition revenue does not fully cover our salary, benefit and program costs of approximately $39.3 million. In addition to these costs, the College must also continue to maintain its facilities and technology resources.
The revenue that usually helps to fill the revenue gap is room and board, primarily room revenue. This year that revenue will be significantly reduced since we will not have students in residence for the fall term. To compensate for this shortfall, we have instituted a 10% reduction in all program costs, a salary freeze at all levels, and a reduction in employee benefits. Despite these changes, there is still a gap between the costs to provide a K education and the revenue we receive to provide it. For these reasons, we cannot reduce tuition.
We acknowledge that the experience our students have this term will be different from what they, and we, had hoped for. Yet it will be a unique K experience provided by dedicated and creative faculty in small virtual settings supported by counseling, health, career, and student development resources, regardless of where our students are located.
When will we see bill adjustments or refunds for fees?
- Room and board charges and health insurance charges have now been removed from Fall 2020 bills*.
- The student activity fee, which is billed through a separate system, will be removed no later than Friday, September 4.
- Lab fees and course fees will also be refunded.
For those that have already paid their bill, refunds will be processed by the first day of class.
*Students who specifically enrolled in health insurance are still enrolled and have not been refunded. If you wish to change your insurance coverage, contact Healthsv@kzoo.edu.
What is the policy on late fees, given the difficult times?
There is no change to the policy on late fees; however, we do understand that there may be extraordinary circumstances due to COVID-19 that are affecting family finances. Please reach out to the Student Accounts office (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions about your specific situation.
Will I still have work-study opportunities in the fall?
Jobs that can be done remotely will be posted on Handshake. Supervisors are also being asked to determine if there is other work that can be accomplished remotely for work-study students. Priority for employment will be given to students on federal work-study and those who were already offered employment before the term went to virtual learning. In the event a student already hired cannot perform the job they were hired for remotely (example: Resident Assistants), another position will be found for them on campus.
How will this change affect financial aid?
In most cases, this change will not affect a student’s financial aid. Examples of situations where a student’s aid may change include a student dropping their course registration below 2.4 units, a student originally planning to live on campus now living at home, etc. For those students on Posse scholarships, those scholarships will provide the same benefits.
When will we have a finalized financial aid/scholarship statement?
Billing statements and financial aid are now current. If your student has an award with a “pending” status, we are either waiting for the State of Michigan to finalize their budget (this impacts the Michigan Competitive Scholarship and Michigan Tuition Grant) or we haven’t received your student’s donor thank you (applies to endowed awards).
What’s the current situation for the Michigan Tuition Grant and Competitive Scholarship?
Currently we have this grant and scholarship held as “pending” until we receive notice that the State of Michigan has approved funding. We hope that this will be decided and funds released by the end of September. We advise students to pay their balance and we will reimburse you when funds come in, however, at this point, there is no guarantee these funds will be available. If you are unable to pay this cost up front, the billing office can work with you to remove late fees if funds are released. If it is determined the funds will not be available and you need to discuss your family’s financial needs, please contact the financial aid office at email@example.com.
Will there be ways for students to gather and meet people virtually? What about in person in small groups where students might be centrally located?
There will absolutely be programs and activities organized virtually for students to get to know one another and have fun. More information on activities will be sent out as the term gets underway. In regards to gatherings, there may be opportunities for students to get together in small groups who live in shared geographic areas and we are exploring some ideas. However, please keep in mind that even off-campus, it’s important to “protect the hive” and practice all the safe physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing that we’ve been discussing all summer long. We want our Hornets to stay safe and healthy!
Will we have access to student support resources this fall?
Yes, students will have access to key support resources this fall. The Counseling Center, the Student Health Center, the Intercultural Center, the Center for International Programs, the Office of Student Involvement, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, and the Center for Career and Professional Development are among the offices that will be providing virtual services and programs to students. Students will also have access to advising and to library services.
Library book pickup hours have expanded to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday. All current students, faculty and staff may request circulating items through Library OneSearch. Learn more about this service.
More information will be available on individual office and department websites in the coming days.
Will the library be able to provide the services I need?
Library services will be available remotely and physical materials can be accessed via curbside pickup for those students located in Kalamazoo. Depending on your needs, the library may be able to connect you to the resources you need in another library, scan and send resources you need, or find you find digital resources. Please reach out to library staff and they will be very happy to assist you.
Will other buildings on campus be available to students living locally?
Since the purpose of going virtual is to de-densify campus, most buildings will remain closed to students and will have only limited staff working on site. However, there may be circumstances where students need access to resources for things such as SIPs or music practice. Students should work with their academic advisors to address such needs, as faculty will be able to request access to specific academic facilities (e.g., lab spaces, performance spaces).
What is the college doing about students without reliable devices?
Information Services has sent out a survey to high need students to assess their access to technology. Based on those survey results, the College is working to determine what steps can be taken to support access for these students.
How will K work to ensure that each course is being taught to the highest standards in a remote environment?
Faculty have spent the summer engaged in planning and professional development for the fall term. Revisions to courses have been developed in response to student feedback on what worked and what did not in the spring term, there has been extensive sharing among faculty of best practices, and faculty have participated in both internal and external workshops on effective virtual pedagogy. Specific topics of emphasis have included creating community and connection in virtual environments, effective use of video and other technologies, and specific strategies for transitioning face to face techniques to virtual environments.
How will faculty be expected to engage with students virtually? Are there avenues students can take if faculty are unavailable or unresponsive?
Faculty are expected to have regular and substantive interaction with students and will be engaging in more synchronous activities than during the spring. If students encounter faculty who are unavailable, please reach out to the Associate Provost, Katie MacLean.
Will classes be synchronous or asynchronous?
Classes will have a mix of both components.
What if I/my student is struggling with online learning?
Please reach out to your professor(s) or your academic advisor for support.
What platform are professors using for classes?
Every course has a Moodle site (our Learning Management System). We also have Microsoft Teams available.
Will courses be Credit/No Credit?
Courses will be graded, and students will also have the option to take courses CR/NC under a modified version of the published CR/NC policy. The specific modifications are described on K’s COVID-19 webpage under the Academic Program tab.
If I want to attend another institution for fall term, how does credit transfer work?
Students who wish to receive credit for academic work completed elsewhere during a term when the student is not enrolled at Kalamazoo College should contact the Registrar’s Office in advance to see whether the course(s) they are interested in will transfer to Kalamazoo. Courses must be taken at a regionally accredited college or university (or appropriately accredited international institution) and must have a focus and be at a level appropriate for an undergraduate liberal arts program. Students should supply the Registrar with the name of the institution and the name and course description for any course they wish to transfer. In some cases, a course syllabus may also be required. The Registrar’s Office will work with appropriate departments to determine the appropriateness of the course. To receive transfer credit for the course, the student must receive a grade of C or better (C- is not acceptable). Please visit https://reason.kzoo.edu/registrar/ for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
When will I be able to meet with an Academic Advisor? Can they help me with my schedule?
Academic advisors will be reaching out to first year students just before the term begins to schedule individual meetings. Please talk with your advisor about your schedule if you need assistance.
K’s study abroad program is a major reason that many students choose to attend K. What options will exist for a semester abroad in the future, if study abroad has been disrupted?
Our Center for International Programs is working on program options for winter and spring if international travel is viable then. Participation during senior year may also be an option for some students. Individual students should work with their advisors right away to plan out possible paths for meeting remaining requirements while accommodating study abroad.
HOUSING AND DINING
What will the housing situation be for Winter? If we had planned to live on campus, can we opt out? Will we have the same room assignment?
Residence Life will be working on these plans in the coming weeks. Your room assignment may be different depending on the number of students coming back to campus, however, if you originally had a room assignment for fall, there will be room available for you this academic year. If you were originally planning to live on campus, you’ll have the opportunity to opt out for winter term.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Will students still have access to student health insurance and the Student Health Center?
Yes, if students had their health insurance fees refunded and they still wish to keep coverage, they can contact Healthsv@kzoo.edu.
The Student Health Center will be available to all enrolled Kalamazoo College students for phone and video visits, and some limited in-person pre-scheduled appointments. More information will be coming soon at https://healthcenter.kzoo.edu on services and hours.
Will students still have access to the Counseling Center?
Yes, students will have access to virtual appointments and services. More information will be available at https://counseling.kzoo.edu.
Why did the College decide not to do entry testing or quarantining before returning to campus?
Kalamazoo College’s plan for COVID PCR testing was informed by federal, state and local public health guidance, including from the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department. The approach focuses on students who are symptomatic or who have had known exposure to COVID.
Testing for symptomatic and exposed students is aligned with public health guidance and was determined to be reasonable given the current demands on testing resources. The supply chain for tests and related supplies had been unreliable, as was the time for test results to become available. Receiving results more than 24-48 hours after the test makes them of little value for immediate response and disease mitigation. Labs could not guarantee timely results, so we could not rely on the data from them for quick response by the College.
It’s helpful to understand the differences between diagnostic tests for the virus. Antigen Point of Care Testing is a form of rapid testing that tests for proteins from the virus in nose and throat secretions. Antigen Point of Care testing as an asymptomatic screening measure is not widely endorsed by the medical community, and will play a limited role in the testing protocol at K. Rapid tests, which take the least amount of time for processing, can result in a misleading number of “false negatives,” which may lead a person to believe that they do not have the virus when they do. Such a conclusion may encourage risky behavior which may lead to additional spread of the illness, as we’ve seen on other campuses.
PCR tests, on the other hand, look for the genetic material of the coronavirus. The test uses a technology called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which greatly amplifies the viral genetic material if it is present. It is considered to be a highly reliable test when active infection is present. Test samples are typically sent away to a lab, which can take multiple days to process.
In either case, testing provides an indicator of a single point in time. A person may be negative at the time of a test and become infected shortly thereafter. These facts together suggest that we exercise great caution in using tests as a primary tool to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Both PCR and rapid Antigen testing will be available to students, and campus medical clinicians will determine when and which test is warranted. We will prioritize our student health center personnel and community testing supplies for testing symptomatic individuals and close contacts of positive COVID cases, and will supply additional local resources for further testing of students as needed.
The College, along with the county health department, will continue to monitor information related to testing. If data about testing and/or the context (supply chain, laboratory demands, testing recommendations) change, we’ll reconsider our strategy for the coming term.
For now, preventative measures are the most reliable in containing and preventing the spread of the virus: physical distancing, ubiquitous wearing of masks, hand hygiene, and daily monitoring of symptoms.