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A good time to go to college, UAA leaders explain what the fall will look like

Published: Aug. 16, 2020 at 12:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - University of Alaska Anchorage leaders said that the pandemic has by no means been beneficial for the institution, however several trends have them in a much better position than many may expect.

Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, laid out much of the fall semester plan at the Municipality’s most recent COVID press conference. She said that enrollment this year is looking more steady than dropping when compared to last year.

“Even though nationally it’s predicted that enrollment will be down 20% this fall compared to last year. At UAA, our latest numbers currently are 9.4% down compared to last fall across all of UAA, and at the Anchorage campus, we’re only down 6.2% compared to last fall,” she said on Friday.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Bruce Shultz, said there’s a couple of factors playing into that. He said a lot of people are returning to school who didn’t finish the first time they went; people who were enrolled in the spring are coming back; and people who may have started a degree out of state are deciding to transfer to UAA for now.

86% of classes are going to be done virtually this fall, Sandeen reported.

Vice Provost of Student Success Claudia Lampman explained that these are programs that just can’t be done online like nursing, ceramics, welding, and aviation. These have all undergone adjustments to comply with mandates and emergency orders over the summer, she added.

Sandeen also said that housing will be made available to the students who need it, but at only 25% capacity. She said these will be for students who may not have access to housing or internet otherwise, students who will be in some of the few in-class programs, or perhaps students who are from rural communities.

Any dining service will be grab-and-go, and the library is already open according to Sandeen. However, all fall sports are suspended.

Despite how different it’s going to be, and how hard so many aspects of life are right now, it’s a really good time to go to college according to the Vice Provost of Faculty Development, Shawnalee Whitney. Especially for people who may have started school at one point but never finished.

“There are thousands of Alaskans that have some college, but no degree,” Whitney said, “this is actually a really great time for people to go to college if they are somewhere along the path to completion of a degree, and we’re here for them. The economy is kinda topsy-tervy. Now is probably a good time to make some progress and get across the finish line.”

The economy has definitely taken a big hit, and a lot of people are out of work, so paying for college out of pocket is probably an expense that many can’t afford right now. However, Shultz said there are some resources available that can take much of the financial load off.

“We now have more financial aid available to support students than we’ve ever had in previous years,” Shultz said, “it comes from multiple source. We have scholarships, we have federal assistance funding that we are distributing to students, and I think that makes it a little bit easier for our students.”

While they’ve been processing applications, Lampman said they’ve been surveying current students on their needs and what worked at the end of last spring. She said there was a large response that she believes will be helpful for the incoming freshmen.

Those freshmen won’t experience the classic college experience, but UAA new student orientation leader and senior undergrad, Morrigan Kellen said they’re working on that too.

She and her fellow orientation leaders have also been busy on outreach in the hope of connecting students virtually in coming weeks.

“It’s not ideal to be socially distanced from everybody,” she said, “However, I think you know departments as well as organizations; fraternities, sororities, clubs - they’re all turning virtual. So there will be virtual opportunities for these students to connect.”

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