Good afternoon, Campus Community –
For those students who participated in our town hall forum yesterday, I want to thank you for your time, questions, and the high level of professionalism you displayed. I hope that as you engage civilly, in other facets of life, you can think back to these forums this year. Our country needs individuals who can engage in civil discourse at every level of government and in community life more than ever right now.
We appreciate your perspective. We aim to be transparent with you on how we make key decisions at the College. This does not happen at many colleges and universities. We do this because of our core values at Bluefield College. Value Three states: “We are a diverse community characterized by integrity, mutual respect, support, and encouragement.”
Further, as was stated at the closing of the forum, our College leadership team spends many hours debating scenarios, outcomes, creating models, and laying out possible choices in making all decisions related to the life of Bluefield College. Decisions are not rashly made, and they are always made with you in mind. In today’s communication, I would like to first update you on our federal work study payout process. I would then like to recap the major talking points from our town hall forum.
Yesterday afternoon you received a message stating that all federal workstudy work was to cease at the close-of-business March 31, 2020. While the message was sudden, and frankly a bit terse, it was not in any way to punish our workstudy students. Through a relaxation of standards by the Department of Education, the College is now able to structure a payout of federal workstudy funds. Within that package is the opportunity to pay out our workstudy students. A stop at the end of the pay period was needed to assess the remaining funds available to be paid out. We will soon institute our payout strategy for those federal workstudies.
It is important to remember that colleges and universities have two categories of workstudies: federal and institutional. This is based solely on how payment is made to the student: with a combination of federal and institutional funds or only institutional funds. This payout to federal workstudy students will conclude our workstudy program for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. This process will reset, as it does each year, for the fall semester.
However, some institutional workstudies may have the option to continue working based on two conditions: 1) the department or office they are working for has institutional funds available to pay students; and 2) the workstudy desires to continue working. Institutional workstudy students should confer with their supervisor to determine their category and qualification for future work this fiscal year.
In yesterday’s town hall forum there were questions from a few students concerning reimbursements of tuition. Students will not receive a refund or a credit on tuition. Remember, Bluefield College has not closed or ceased our operations. Academic services have continued, staff continue to be employed to meet your needs, and your education as a student has continued, albeit in a different modality, due to the necessity of an unprecedented health crisis.
Regarding reimbursements related to room and board, what College leadership has stated is, “we are not considering reimbursements at this time.” A better phrasing may have been that, “we are not issuing reimbursements at this time.” Within a month of the conclusion of the Spring semester, we will have a better idea of any cost savings that can be extended to residential students. For room charges, we are looking specifically at our fixed costs and other variables. We have continued to operate these facilities for residential students. We have securely stored belongings and personal possessions, and we remind you that leaving was an optional choice as residence halls are still open.
Second, for boarding charges or meal plans, we continue to negotiate with our food provider, Aladdin. The good news is we have nearly completed that negotiation this week. We look forward to extending you a refund/credit for their meal plans in the following days.
Let me share with you how the refund/credit process will work. For underclassmen and those returning next semester, refunds will be applied as a credit to any existing account balance on your student account. Any remainder will be a credit on next year’s balance. For seniors not returning next semester, if your student account is paid in-full you will receive a refund check prior to May 9, 2020.
The faculty have not moved the College to a pass/fail system. This works to your advantage as a student, because in a pass/fail system you do not receive credit for the coursework you complete. While you may pass the course, you may be required to pick up additional hours outside your current academic plan in order to meet the number of credit hours required to graduate. This, for some students, could lead to additional courses to be taken, expanding course loads over subsequent semesters, and creates the possibility of adding a semester to your time at Bluefield College should appropriate planning not be worked out in advance.
Your faculty are here to work with you. As I stated in an earlier communication, one of our best qualities at Bluefield College is our caring faculty and staff who will meet students where they are in their moment of need. This includes a recent decision by the faculty to extend out the course withdrawal deadline to April 29, 2020, to accommodate students who may not be satisfied with their course performance.
The other significant issue we covered in our town hall forum yesterday was related to the Spring commencement ceremony. Seniors, we clearly heard your desires for a late summer/fall ceremony rather than our December commencement exercise to walk across the stage. Our team in Academic Affairs is meeting this week to reconsider current plans. I make no promises that current plans will change, but the team will once again review all options previously considered, of which a late summer/fall ceremony was one of those plans. We will communicate the team’s decision in days ahead.
I wish each of you well as you finish the spring term. I and many others are cheering you on. To borrow from the Apostle Paul, “run with perseverance the race marked out for you.” The race to which Paul was referring was this life journey we’re on. He noted that we all need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the perfecter of our faith. While that is the most important race for anyone of us, you are on a race to finish this semester. So, run with perseverance and stay strong as you near the finish line of this semester.