ANN ARBOR – Washtenaw Community College President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca today outlined the college’s Fall 2020 semester plan in video messages to students and employees and an open letter to the community.
“Along with the rest of the state, it’s time to move forward,” Bellanca wrote. “We’re eager to reopen our campus for the Fall 2020 semester, but will do so with safety as our top priority.”
With a health-informed goal of minimizing the number of students on campus when the Fall 2020 semester begins on August 31, classes will be primarily conducted via online and virtual classroom delivery. Classes with laboratory or clinical components that cannot be conducted virtually will meet in a mixed-mode format that includes lectures online and labs on campus, following strict safety protocols.
“Much thoughtful deliberation went into creating a fall schedule that aims to keep people healthy while continuing the career and technical education programs that require in-person, hands-on learning,” Bellanca wrote. “It’s important to our community that we continue to train essential workers and the skilled labor we’ll need during our economic recovery.”
In response to the fall plan, the college has reduced the cost of distance learning classes for in-district students from $108 to $95 per credit hour, matching the price in-district students pay for face-to-face instruction. Earlier this week, the WCC Board of Trustees unanimously approved that recommendation for students who live, work or own property in the WCC district.
In late April, the college announced it will freeze all tuition rates and fees for the 2020-21 academic year in recognition of the severe financial impact COVID-19 is having on students and the community. The college’s distance learning tuition of $117 per credit hour for out-of-district students makes WCC the most affordable higher education option in the state.
Bellanca emphasized all campus services that can be provided virtually will continue to be delivered in that manner throughout the Fall semester – which includes most student services and other staff functions.
WCC has taken exhaustive steps to protect the health of the limited number of students, faculty and staff that will be on campus during the Fall semester, starting with an online safety training module that must be completed before students or employees can return to campus. A daily check-in process will minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 and provide data necessary for proper contact tracing.
The college also contracted with two organizations that specialize in re-opening institutions safely. One is a professional business design firm that — with help from WCC faculty — did a complete assessment of campus facilities to establish maximum capacity of spaces while maintaining social distancing and flow. The other specializes in industrial hygiene and provided detail-intense guidelines for the cleaning and disinfecting protocols that will be in place when campus re-opens.
Bellanca noted that WCC’s position as a leader in distance learning for almost two decades positions the college well for continuing to hold a majority of its classes online. WCC has earned third-party recognition as the top online community college in the state and among the top 50 in the nation.
“The knowledge we’ve accumulated gave us a big head start when COVID-19 changed the way higher education is delivered, and we’ve continued to innovate new solutions,” Bellanca said. “The development of virtual classrooms to complement our Blackboard distance learning tools allows students to still engage in traditional class discussions — just in a virtual environment.”
More information about the Fall 2020 semester is available at wccnet.edu/discover-wcc and wccnet.edu/fall-20-students. An updated Fall 2020 schedule will be available at wccnet.edu/learn beginning Monday, June 29.