President Michael Crow, provost Mark Searle, senior vice president James Rund, and spokesperson Katie Paquet sat down with The State Press Thursday via Zoom to discuss adjustments for the Fall 2020 semester in light of COVID-19.
Crow revealed ASU's plan to reopen on August 20 with three modalities, which included adherence to all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing for on-campus classes during in the fall.
Crow also outlined how the school plans to distribute CARES Act funds and talked about resources for students struggling financially during COVID-19.
Campus operations will be conducted with maximized social distancing, masks will likely be a requirement, outdoor furniture will be expanded and the University will have "hospital-grade sanitation," Crow said.
Crow also stressed that preventing further spread of COVID-19 will require members of the University community to follow the guidelines that are put in place.
How will classes be conducted?
Classes will be conducted either on campus, online or with ASU Sync, similar to how classes were conducted at the end of the spring semester, Crow said.
The modality of classes will vary by size and flexibility. For example, for a class that meets twice a week, Crow said one option could be half of the students attending the class in-person while the rest of the class zooms in on one day, and then the groups will switch.
Searle said that classes with faculty, especially those who are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, could have its students convene in-class with the faculty member teaching over Zoom.
"We're going to be as accommodative as possible to those circumstances," Searle said.
Crow said if a student or faculty member shows symptoms of COVID-19, they will be tested. If the student or faculty members tests positive, they will attend the class via Zoom.
Gov. Ducey said he wants all college students to be tested. How do you ensure that happens?
"We are going to be able to test everyone," Crow said. "That won't be a problem because we have the systems now. We have the new saliva test ... if we have to test everybody, we will test everybody."
Crow said he doesn't believe every person will need to be tested, but the University will test everyone that wants to be tested or is showing symptoms.
What precautions will be taken for on-campus housing?
Crow said that all residence halls will be open for the upcoming semester, saying, "The key to everything is knowing who you are around."
Rund said there will be a "significant" health education campaign for all students.
"Influencing behavior and helping people understand how they can manage their own well-being and contribute to the well-being of others is key in managing all of this," Rund said.
Crow said the University will follow any guidelines set by the CDC within the residence halls.
There will be accommodations made for students uncomfortable with having a roommate, Rund added. If a student wants their own room, they can choose to pay for a private, on-campus room.
Other residence-hall safety measures include adjusting who can visit. Rund said that visitors who don't live in the residence halls will be prohibited from entering, including other on-campus students who don't live in the same dorm.
Rund also said that off-campus housing providers will also be provided with the same guidance on-campus housing receives, saying, "We want students in the general community to feel as safe and to be as safe as those who are living on campus."
In the event that a student living on-campus does test positive and needs to self-isolate, Crow said the University will ensure that the student is able to do so.
No raises to tuition for in-state, out-of-state, international students
Crow said the University is not increasing tuition for in-state, out-of-state or international students because of current economic strain, despite being granted the ability to do so by the Arizona Board of Regents.
"It just doesn't seem the right time to do that," Crow said.
However, online students will see a 2% increase in their tuition with no continuing student seeing an increase larger than 3% between tuition and fees, according a statement made by Paquet Friday morning.
Online students will also see their fees restructured into four tiers, with students paying anywhere between $20 and $120 depending on their college.
An update regarding the CARES Act, distribution of grants to students
The University interprets the CARES Act as a special allocation of money for emergency resources to aid a student to finish college.
"The CARES Act is not a transfer of money to anyone that needs money, it is a transfer of money to anyone that needs money to finish college," Crow said. "We will be writing checks to anyone that is trying to finish school that needs some extra resources."
Crow said the CARES Act funds would not be distributed to recent graduates or those who are deemed to be not in financial need.
"We have thousands of students who come from families that make more than $400,000 a year who are fully employed," Crow said. "They don't need to take CARES Act money away from other students who may have a special need for their tuition, room and board or some other cost to attend the University."
Some Spring 2020 graduates have expressed disappointment in not receiving CARES Act money. However, Crow claims many recent graduates received support from ASU in the Spring 2020 semester.
"They didn't get (money) from the CARES ACT, they got it from us," Crow said. "We respond to everyone that asks us. If you're struggling and it looks like it is going to tank your ability to finish, then we step up. And we did."
Around 1,400 students received emergency funding grants, which did not come from the CARES Act, that ranged from $100 to $2,400, according to Paquet. The average amount awarded was around $700, with most of it being used for education expenses, travel and food.
Crow said the University saved CARES Act funds for disbursement for the Summer 2020, Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.
"We think the fall semester is where the real impact will come," Crow said. "The fall semester is where we will be saying, to everyone, 'What do you need?'"
Crow reiterated that students need to ask the University's financial aid office or their school's deans for funds if they are in need, saying, "We'll go talk to them. We'll figure out how we can be helpful to them."
How much have you invested in Zoom technology and other remote learning technology?
"We have invested, just in the spring semester making adjustments, millions of dollars," Crow said. "We will be investing millions more this summer. I think (the amount invested) is going to be eight to ten million dollars, something in that range."
Crow said some of the money has been directed to equip all classrooms with Zoom technology to allow students or faculty who can’t attend due to sickness, personal reasons or spacing constraints to attend class virtually while others attend in person.
He also said that much of the spending during the spring was directed to providing laptops and hot spots to ensure students could participate in online learning to complete the semester.
'This virus is not going away'
Crow does not plan to shut down University operations if students or faculty contract COVID-19, but rather aim to "manage" the spread of it, saying "This virus is not going away."
"Why would we do that?" Crow said. "We don't shut the University down for the first positive flu case, the first positive pneumonia case, the first positive meningitis case."
All on-campus students and employees will receive a "Community of Care Kit" once they return to the University. The kits will include masks, a thermometer, hand sanitizer and other re-stockable items to help maintain health and wellness.
Crow emphasized the importance of personal awareness and responsibility when it comes to managing the spread of the virus.
What is the protocol for athletics, intramurals in the fall?
"I think we are going to be looking at weekly testing of all athletes," Crow said. "There is going to be a tighter testing regimen for the virus as well as other special considerations in the designing of the training."
Crow said there are still many factors that need to be decided before competition can begin, citing CDC guidelines and fan attendance.
Sun Devil Fitness Center facilities will follow protocols based on whatever guidelines the CDC recommends at the time. University administrators have just begun to discuss intramural activities.
Communication between the University and club sports has primarily focused on the ability to accommodate sufficient levels of testing.
"(Club sports) are self-funded and their ability to accommodate that level of testing is probably highly variable, if at all possible," Rund said.
Reporters Alex Coil, Piper Hansen and Wyatt Myskow contributed to the reporting of this article, along with editor Jeffrey Horst.