SALT LAKE CITY — With campuses around the world now closed due to COVID-19, colleges and universities are having to reconsider how they accomplish their mission of teaching students.
University of Utah President Ruth Watkins joined Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to discuss how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the university.
COVID-19 relief money for colleges
Colleges and universities must spend 50% of the federal stimulus money for COVID-19 relief on students.
“Has the University of Utah decided how you’re going to allocate those funds to students when you get the money?” Debbie asked.
“We have not specifically decided, but I can give you some ideas. We have created an emergency fund to help our students get through this period,” Watkins said. “It has been supported by donors and institutional funds and it has been very well used.
“We immediately refunded housing to students. We wanted to keep our students safe and healthy. That was our first priority. As students left housing, we immediately refunded their room and board,” Watkins said.
Cyber-class is not for everyone
“Have you considered giving refunds to kids who have just not flourished with this online learning?” Dave asked.
“We have dedicated a number of resources to online support and learning guides. It is our deepest commitment to keep people in school,” Watkins said.
“The tragic event of this would be if students don’t stay on path to complete their degrees,” Watkins added, especially given the economic uncertainty and skyrocketing unemployment brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know we’re going to get through this and emerge as a stronger institution,” Watkins said.
Watkins said the university moved to the option of credit-no credit for courses for students concerned about their ability to learn in an online environment, to reduce the stress on grades.
“I know this will help our students stay on path to their academic goals,” she said.
What happens next autumn?
“Are fall enrollments down? Are you worried about that? Do you think kids will take a semester off or maybe even a year off to reassess?” Dave asked.
“Right now it’s a little too early to tell,” Watkins said. “We’re tracking just about where we were last year.”
She said people often highlight the value of a secondary education when going through a recession or economic downturn.
“We’re doing everything we can to reach out to students now, to keep them engaged with university,” Watkins said.
Watkins said the university created a new scholarship program combining federal, state and university funds. It covers tuition and fees for academically qualified, Pell Grant-eligible, Utah resident first-time freshmen.
“I think that has increased interest in the U, and we hope that that translates to enrollment in the fall,” Watkins said.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 spreads person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
- Get a flu shot.
State of Utah: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1–800–456–7707