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Questions and Answers with Students: April 8, 2020

Apr 8, 2020

Questions and Answers with Students: April 8, 2020

Interim President Maria Pallavicini, along with Interim Provost Michael Hunter Schwartz, held a Zoom meeting with Stockton undergraduate and graduate students on April 8, 2020. The following questions and answers are from that meeting.

Why has a decision to take classes online during the summer been made preemptively without knowing if circumstances will change in the meantime? Is there a possibility classes can transition to be in person?
Maria Pallavicini: We made the decision because of the uncertainty in knowing what the COVID-19 situation would be. Right now, we are saying that the classes are going to be offered online. I am not sure whether we will transition to in-person maybe later in the summer.

Provost Schwartz, do you want to reply? Do you have any other information from the faculty?

Michael Hunter Schwartz: We wanted to have predictability for our students who are out of the area so they didn’t have to rush like crazy to get here. That would be very unfair to our students. And I think ultimately what we’re talking about is a question of safety and so I feel like the only safe choice was to have summer classes online and it’s consistent with what every other university is doing.

Will the newly-announced annual relief grant—the COVID-19 Relief Grant—of $1,450 be given to all students regardless of financial aid based on FAFSA?
The intention is that all [undergraduate] students will receive the $1,450. Prospective students coming in as freshman who meet the eligibility, transfers who come in as either sophomores or juniors will have it for the semesters they are here. It is given to students as freshmen for eight semesters and it’s prorated for transfer students, and it is not based on financial need.

When will we know the date for the spring graduation?
The spring graduation [Commencement] is going to be virtual. We do know the date for that virtual graduation (May 9). We do not know the date for the in-place, face-to-face graduation [Commencement], which we definitely want to have for our graduates to celebrate this wonderful, special time. But students do have a choice to do virtual only, place-based only or to do both, and that is being worked on now.

Is fall 2020 semester going to be online?
We hope that fall 2020 semester is not going to be online. Part of what makes Pacific so special is the interactions you have with the faculty, the place where you are having those interactions, the fun times you have with your friends and so we are not planning to be online in fall unless circumstance change.

Is the fall semester of 2020 starting on time?
Yes, it is. We are planning to start as described in all the materials.

Is there going to be any refund for parking permits?
Yes, there was a refund for parking permits. It is in the same package that you’ll be getting for refund of housing and dining. And for those of you who don’t live on campus, but nevertheless had to pay for a parking permit, you should be receiving the parking payment refunds.

The rate of tuition for grads over the summer is going to be the same it would have been as before COVID-19.
We did not raise the tuition for summer school. We kept it very steady, which is about half the price of what it is for units taken during fall and spring semester.

If COVID-19 continues to be an issue as we move into the fall semester, will the university consider delaying clinically-based programs, pharmacy, etc., and allowing students to return to finish their degrees where they left off?
Schwartz: What I can tell you in talking with the deans is their sole goal is to minimize or eliminate the burden on students finishing their programs. We’re probably going to make whatever decisions allow people to finish their degrees as speedily as possible, but also make sure that their degrees are consistent with accreditation standards and licensing requirements.

Will students who needed to return from studying abroad still be reimbursed for any extra expenses, for example, students in exchange programs still pay for Monagan Silver, whether or not they usually live on campus or not, in addition students had to pay high prices for plane tickets or had to pay for tickets that they ultimately had to cancel.
We had 16 students studying abroad this past spring, when the COVID-19 crisis started to really ramp up. I recalled those who were living abroad, and eight students came back and we said we would help to defray some of their expenses. Eight students said they were not going to come back and we said OK, but that the university would not be able to do as much for those students. For the student who is asking this question, you should talk to [International Programs and Services] and find out where you stand in those two categories

Is there a prorated tuition for the amount we paid for on-campus resources and classes?
We are not prorating tuition. One of the reasons is because you are learning with your faculty, you are getting credit for the units you are taking and these credits are being applied toward your progress to degree. It is not as if you are not learning and getting credit for what you’re doing, and for that, we have to retain the faculty and we have to ensure that we are able to give you the learning that you need.

If this year’s senior students have the opportunity to graduate in person next spring 2021 will it be separate from the graduating class of 2021?
That’s a very good question, sounds like actually a good suggestion and I will take that to the group that is considering commencement and we can consider that. It’s certainly a possibility.

Did all internships/externships get canceled for next fall?
It is not our intention to cancel internship or externships right now. We’re hoping that the COVID-19 crisis is resolved and we plan to go on as normal with face-to-face instructions with the activities that are there on campus, and for externships and internships.

Because we are not on campus and we cannot access on-campus resources and facilities the same way we once were able to, will we still be required to pay the facilities fees?
I would say that if we were in this situation next fall, which I really hope we will not be and we do not plan to be, then that would be an item that we would need to discuss. And I understand the rationale for you asking that question.

Will graduate students receive the COVID-19 Relief Grant? If not, is there a reasoning behind it?
The regents have approved some COVID-19 relief funds for graduate students and professional students. It doesn’t come in a specifically designated amount grant. And there will be a process by which you apply for financial aid for that. And I hope that all of the grad students received information about resources that will be available for those who are living in or are experiencing the COVID-19 situation right now. Please let me know if you have not. You should have received it today.

Will current four-year students entering an additional semester taking two units be eligible for the COVID-19 grant?
I’m going to ask you to talk to financial aid about that question.

Will Christopher Callahan still become university president on July 1?
Chris and I talk frequently—at least one or two times a week. He’s very apprised of what’s going on at Pacific. He’s been dealing with a lot of similar things at ASU, of course. Yes, he’s going to come and be university president and I’m going to go back to being provost, which is a job that I love being close to academics, and Mike Hunter Schwartz, the interim provost, is going to go back to being dean of the law school.

Should seniors get a refund on their caps and gowns if only a virtual commencement is happening?
We will host an in-person commencement in the future. If graduates do not want to keep their regalia as souvenirs or for future use at an in-person ceremony, please go to the Regalia Returns page at For additional information, please contact Herff Jones customer service at 1.800.837.4235. 

Have you looked at the commencement survey results? If so, what is the most voted for time of the year to do the in-person commencement?
The survey results have provided helpful insights on the aspects of commencement that are most valued by our graduates and the preferred timing for an alternate in-person ceremony. A majority of graduates expressed a desire to return to campus in the late summer or the fall and do not want to wait until next May. We plan to make an announcement soon regarding the in-person ceremony. Please see the Commencement FAQs for additional information.

Will the university be providing stipends compensation for resident assistants who have lost housing and food, even though it is scholarship-based? Many RAs are at a disadvantage due to not getting access to a meal plan and housing refund.
RAs are a scholarship-based leadership position and are not entitled to wages or accrue sick leave. RAs receive a room and board scholarship for the student leadership they provide to the residential students while students live in the residential communities. Because they no longer live and eat on campus, the RAs have received the full benefit of their scholarship; the RAs’ leadership positions ended March 18. 

All students, including RAs, who feel they are experiencing financial distress are encouraged to contact and apply for the Pacific Emergency Fund.

How will final exams be proctored?
We are working with a company whose sole purpose is to ensure that online exam testing is done in a proper way. I can assure you that it will be proctored virtually.

I am an international student. What should I do if I cannot come to the U.S. in fall due to the travel ban?
If the travel ban is in effect, there’s not much that Pacific can do, I’m sorry to say. However, we are offering these online summer classes, which hopefully you could participate in. I anticipate in the fall that most of our courses will be face-to-face, placed-based on the Stockton Campus if you’re an undergrad. 

Will the university be financially stable in the fall? Should we prepare for more budget cuts?
A lot of what the university is looking at now is how we ensure that we have sufficient means to weather what could be declining enrollment in fall. We have in place plans to address that if it does occur. We are not looking at this moment for more budget cuts. That’s not to say it can’t happen.

According to a statement from Kevin Huber, federally funded student workers receive full wages based on available funding from the federal government. Student workers who are institutionally funded will be paid an estimated wage. It’s an estimated wage based on the number of hours that you work or would have worked during this semester. I’m a resident assistant on campus, but was told that RAs will not be receiving any type of wage. As per that statement from Kevin Huber, why are RAs not receiving any estimated wage?
RAs are a scholarship-based leadership position and are not entitled to receive wages or accrue sick leave. RAs receive a room and board scholarship for the student leadership they provide to the residential students while students live in the residential communities. Because they no longer live and eat on campus, the RAs have received the full benefit of their scholarship; the RAs’ leadership positions ended March 18. 

All students, including RAs, who feel they are experiencing financial distress are encouraged to contact and apply for the Pacific Emergency Fund.

It feels like grad students are more negatively impacted by the transition of classes from in-person to online. While it may seem that classes online should deliver the same educations as in person, that’s not the case. Grad students in health sciences are learning hands-on skills that are critical for going into the health care field. When transitioning to online, we’re no longer getting a hands-on experience. Therefore, it’s hard to understand why we would not be prorated for the lack of experience we were promised when committing to come this school.
That is a question to which I really wish I had a less painful answer. And the answer that I wish I could give was that we could give you all that money back. But in reality, we still have to pay the faculty and they are still teaching you. Now, we might not have exactly that same hands-on experience, but know that the faculty has been very creative and has worked hard to ensure that you are learning as much as you can through the courses that they are delivering now as you would have with the experiential learning. I know that that is not absolutely 100% the case, but the reality is that we still need to pay the faculty and we’re still giving credits for that course.

For summer will there be a facilities fee? It is not listed online, but I wanted to make sure.
The Activity and Recreation Fee and ASuop Fee are not charged during summer session.

Is the financial grant for international students too?
That financial grant is for all undergraduate students who are full-time matriculated into Pacific that are taking a full load of courses for Pacific credits toward graduation.

For those graduating seniors who have accepted positions at companies or graduate institutions for the next year that are distant from the school, would the university reimburse travel costs to attend the in-person graduation ceremony?
I would like to say yes to that, but unfortunately, we cannot commit to doing that. I would like very much to, but the cost can be really extravagant if we were going to do that for all our students and we simply cannot afford that.

When will refunds be given for room and board?
Students should have received an email last week from Student Accounts regarding any adjustments they will be receiving for room and board. If students have an adjustment on their student accounts for room and board but did not receive an email, please contact Student Accounts at If students have no room and board adjustment on their student accounts and have further questions, please contact

Are current seniors due to graduate this year be given any financial relief. If not, why?
The COVID-19 relief grant is for prospective students that are starting in fall and for continuing students. It is not an anticipated or projected or planned to go to seniors who will be graduating this spring. 

I think the reason you're seeing more questions about tuition still is that we do not feel that you've answered it completely. While you've acknowledged that summer tuition for graduates is lower than it is during the fall that is unrelated to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the undergraduates are receiving a tuition reduction on their third class and beyond, while the graduates (many of whom are required to take three or more classes for our programs) are not. For the undergraduates, this is expressly linked to COVID-19 and framed as an attempt to help them during this time. I think that's great! However, I'd still like to know why did that decision only applies to them?
The COVID-19 grant is not for summer school. The COVID-19 grant is for fall and spring semesters. Summer school is already a very reduced tuition for everybody: for the undergrads and for the grads, so it’s not linked to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 grant for fall and spring semesters was slated to go to undergraduates because of the financial structure that undergraduates have. The financial aid that undergrads are receiving is in university aid, loan aid, family loans, etc., and it was felt that the COVID-19 grant, whether fairly or unfairly, was going to go to undergrads to encourage retention and to encourage us to bring in a freshmen class. Our success in doing that is critical for the university, not that grad students are not also very important, but the decision was made with the resources that we were able to allocate to do that primarily for undergrads. There is money that has been allocated for graduate students as well and please contact financial aid to understand how that will work and to apply for it. It is set up in a different way than it was for undergrads.

Will the final exam proctoring be conducted any differently with those registered with the Services for Students with Disabilities office?
The SSD office is working very closely with the faculty and the deans and the exam testing vendor to ensure that we are able to do this. Not sure exactly what kind of accommodations are needed for this individual, but yes, we will do accommodations.

What plans do we have in place to financially navigate an enrollment decline?
We are working through those scenarios. We have put in place a hiring freeze with very few exceptions to be approved by the president and that is to reduce our expenses. We are asking our faculty and our staff to reduce expenses as much as possible, and we are looking at other areas to bridge any kind of gap that we might be experiencing.

Will students applying to Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry who will not be able to fulfill specific requirements due to the virus over the summer, such as shadowing and volunteer work, be granted some exception?
You should talk with the faculty in the dental school or the dean of the dental school as it’s the faculty and the deans who make exceptions to any kind of policies or procedures or practices. I do know that the deans and the faculty are incredibly flexible and everyone’s wanting to have this viral pandemic not impact students adversely. 

Unfortunately, it seems what you just said was the school is saying that the graduate students will pay to salaries of the professors while the undergraduate aren’t required to do that.
This is a question about who’s paying for faculty salaries. Everyone is paying for faculty salaries—grad students and undergrad students. It’s not that anyone is paying any more or any less. The university has to pay the faculty and for that we need to charge tuition.

(1/2) With regards to the rationale for not providing tuition refunds being that faculty still need to be paid their salary and credits are still being awarded: Why not entertain administrative pay reductions? Is it not equally the administration’s responsibility to ensure the quality of a Pacific education?
Yes, of course it is. We are looking at a number of different options. It is everybody’s responsibility at Pacific, whether you’re an administrator, faculty, the staff person in CAPS—it’s everybody’s responsibility to ensure that the quality of your experience at Pacific is the best it can be.

(2/2) Why not tap into the money that has been set aside as a rainy day fund for the university? Isn’t this the textbook example of a “rainy day”?
Yes, indeed it is. And sometimes I think it’s not just sprinkling rain. It’s really pouring rain. We will undoubtedly be tapping into what we call the reserves at the university. The reserves are there for emergencies. We will undoubtedly be using them. It’s part of this whole planning that we are doing right now based on a number of different scenarios for how to deal with some of the expenses. Just kind of as a little bit of an aside for you, this spring has been very expensive for the university. We’ve had to return $5 million, and rightly so, about $5 million to students for housing and dining. We probably spent about a million dollars bringing up the technology for online instruction. This is all unexpected, not anticipated at all in our budget. We, like all other universities, have had some very large expenses hit our budget that were not projected for. So all universities—if you read anything about universities in the news—are struggling with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only this year, but also looking at what it would mean for years to come.

For students who are graduating this semester with honors, how and when will we receive the special regalia or tassel?
Some companies that produce materials were impacted by the various shutdowns. We are working with the many departments that handle the different honors and will explore options and provide an update when we have a clear understanding of the availability of the honors materials.

If students choose to change a class to pass/ fail, will we receive the full credits the course offered? For example, if a class offers four credits and the student switches the class to be pass/ fail, does the student still get the full four credits counted toward the graduation requirement?
Absolutely yes, you will.

(1/2) Undergrad tuition is $800 a unit during the summer. That was the tuition cost last summer. I’ve looked on financial aid website to see where the reduction is implemented. Can you elaborate on how tuition is reduced during the summer?
I’ll say that the tuition is about half the price per unit in summer than it is during the academic year.

(2/2) Will there also be an extension on the payment deadlines considering that people are facing financial difficulties during this epidemic?
That’s something that I would like to consider. Let me work on that. I can’t promise anything, but let me talk to folks about that. I understand why that’s a big concern.

Can you do another Q&A to answer any questions you couldn't confirm today?
I certainly can and we can try to do that relatively soon.

Just to add on to the question about payment deadline extension for summer. Do you think the university will consider payment plans for the summer instead of having the full amount due at once?
I presume you’re saying the full amount due at once for the summer session that you’re taking. Let me look into that. 

Can you elaborate on the $500 premium that will be given to students choosing to have the funds credited back to them? Also, thank you for taking the time to answer us directly, I understand that tensions are high for everyone but these meetings are very timely and helpful.
The $500 premium funds are for those students who want to enroll next fall to be able to have $500 taken off their bill. And that, everybody, is because we really, really want you to come back in fall if you’re a continuing student. We want to be able to help you out on your bill for Pacific. It can be applied to anything. It can be just applied to your tuition or your housing. We wanted it to be quite flexible on the Pacific bill because not all of you live in the residence halls and some live off campus, so it will be a credit on your account.