By Sumayyah Lebrón—
On Tuesday, April 27th at 7pm, the PCCC Board of Trustees had a meeting over Zoom to discuss what steps PCCC has been taking in the wake of COVID-19 and the mandatory quarantine. The meeting was livestreamed on YouTube for the public, so that we can also be privy to the information shared.
After reciting the pledge of allegiance, going through a roll call, and resolving and approving the minutes, Dr. Steven M. Rose, President of Passaic County Community College, began going through where PCCC stands at the moment after shifting to online.
Of the over 1000 courses PCCC offers, 10% have always occurred online, while 90% are in-person and take place in the classroom. In the past two weeks, 900 sections had to be converted into an online format due to the college closing.
It was an enormous task; however, with the efforts of staff and administration, PCCC was able to successfully complete the transition.
“Everyone came together… the faculty just stepped up and did what they had to do to get it done,” said President Dr. Rose.
Not only was this transition a success for the faculty, but many students have been doing their best to make the best of this situation as well.
“Attendance has been really strong. Students have been showing up online; from day one they got involved,” President Dr. Rose mentioned.
However, because this is an entirely new format that students are still trying to get accustomed to, the college has decided to employ a pass/fail system. Students are able to request a letter grade, but the system is default and unless you specifically ask for a grade, you will receive a pass/no credit.
As a reference, PCCC is allowing students to pass with anything from an A to a D, but receiving a grade any lower will automatically result in failing the class and receiving no credit.
Due to the circumstances of this semester with COVID-19, many colleges and universities have agreed to accept pass/fail credits from transfer students, Rutgers University included.
One of the biggest difficulties encountered in this transition to online learning is the many students who don’t have working laptops, which are important in order to attend classes that are being held through Zoom and complete homework and assignments.
President Dr. Rose reported that Bradley Morton, the Vice President for Information Technology at PCCC, and his team have been working on scouring PCCC for any available and working laptops to distribute to the students in need of one. So far, 175 laptops were lent out to students who didn’t have the right technology. A purchase is also going to be made for additional laptops, totaling up to around $129,000.
Professors have been very understanding of the situations that their students find themselves in, and they are dedicated to helping the students succeed.
“Our faculty are working with the students, along with our counselors and tutors. All the people who support the students are working with them to do everything we can to try and get them through,” said President Dr. Rose.
Seeing as spring break was extended by one week to provide time for professors and students to get accustomed to the new situation, the semester has been extended by two weeks. Technically, the semester ends one week after it would have ended normally, and the week after is extra time for students to submit missed or incomplete work.
Plans have been made for the Summer 1 semester to be pushed back one week, continuing in the online format. Most likely, the July summer session will be held online as well.
PCCC administrators and faculty are preparing for both online and in-person classes for the fall semester because it is unknown how long this pandemic and the subsequent quarantine will last for. Hopefully, in the next month or two, classes will be able to transfer back on campus, however PCCC is planning for any contingencies.
Unfortunately, this transfer to online learning has already had severe financial implications for PCCC. The state of New Jersey has cut the allocation for PCCC in half for the rest of this semester, plus part of the summer, which adds up to around $600,000. There have also been extra and unforeseen costs, such as the laptops.
Despite this, PCCC has been granted $5.4 million as a result of the CARES Act. $2.7 million is to be used as an emergency aid for students. The other $2.7 million is for the college to recover expenses related to COVID-19 and the closing.
In terms of the money for students, the goal is to get it to students in need who have been impacted by the current crisis. There is an online form being provided to students to see if they meet the criteria to qualify for the money. An email was also sent to students and about 500 replied within 5 hours of the email being sent.
There is still some confusion on the exact guidelines for what the college can use the other $2.7 million for; however, some of it will most likely be used for more laptops. It may help account for the money that was pulled by NJ. It may also help clear some students’ accounts, but nothing is confirmed.
Seeing as we are now online, there are a lot of events, etc. that will not need funding. Funds will be shifted to cover new costs that have turned up as a result of this transition to online learning.
One event that is not happening anymore is the commencement in May. There was no mention as to what will be happening with commencement; however, it is definitely cancelled.
The end of the spring semester is coming up which brings on the summer and fall semesters. There has been a 25% decrease in registration for the fall semester, but a larger percentage of students have signed up for online classes than ever before.
President Dr. Rose believes this may open things up for PCCC.
“Hopefully, we are really developing our capacity in a lot of different ways. Our faculty will develop new pedagogic techniques that will help them do better in teaching students, and students will become more resilient. We will try to make something good out of this crisis,” he stated.