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California Universities May Remain Online Past Fall

In the wake of COVID-19, California State University students could be forced to remain online for the rest of the academic year, which is slated to end May 2021, CSU Chancellor Timothy White said Tuesday.

(TNS) — California State University students could be forced online for the rest of the academic year, which ends May 2021, CSU Chancellor Timothy White said Tuesday.

White’s remarks came during a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor subcommittee.

White told the committee that the move to a virtual fall semester, “and quite frankly, the academic year,” was driven by health and safety issues, and students progress to success.

White, who retires at the end of 2020, said the coronavirus pandemic could continue to challenge officials for up two more years.

“We imagine another bump (in cases) later this summer,” he continued. “We have a forecast that’s a very strong forecast, of a greater wave of this disease coupled with influenza come October, November, and another wave coming in sort of March, April. So our planning horizon has been for the longer term.”

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But Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesperson for the Chancellor’s Office, said Thursday that any announcement of a virtual spring 2021 semester wouldn’t come until late this summer.

Uhlenkamp said White’s statement only meant that the CSU is planning for the future.

“We are still in the planning stages, and we are not ready to announce specific plans for the spring yet,” he said.

Hoping for HEROES Act money

During the hearing, White said the CSU system lost $100 million a month for the last three months of the 2019-2020 academic year, and “we anticipate that to continue for the next 12 months.”

He pushed for a passing of the federal HEROES Act, which would mitigate the $299 million in cuts the state of California made to the 23-campus CSU system when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the recent budget.

The cut makes up 4.2% of the CSU budget, White said, but federal relief to states would restore that funding.

The CSU system was the first in the nation to announce it was moving online for fall when it did so in May, affecting its 482,000 students at the country’s largest four-year college system.

Fresno State released its fall plans on June 26, including guidelines for housing, food, and wellness checks. Only about 7.5% of the student population will be on campus as compared to fall 2019.

About 1,340 of those will be students who attend the 128 on-campus courses that cannot be taught online, including clinical labs, science, technology, engineering and mathematics labs, and some performing arts.

Students will use a mobile app to complete a daily health check before they arrive on campus, officials said, and free COVID-19 baseline testing will be available for all students, faculty, and staff.

Cal Poly continues to plan for fall 2020, which begins in September, but does not have a deadline to release plans for winter or spring quarters, according to spokesperson Matt Lazier.

That plan “will be informed by the ongoing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and will be made in consultation with the CSU and local and state health officials,” he said.

California State University, Stanislaus said it was not read to announce plans either.

“As Chancellor White states, the health and safety of our students and their academic progress will continue to guide our discussions for plans beyond the fall,” said spokesperson Rosalee Rush.

Fresno State officials echoed that statement.

“At this point, it’s too early to discuss details about spring 2021,” said spokesperson Lisa Boyles. “Recognizing that the pandemic is a constantly evolving situation, we continue to review and adjust our campus plans and services as necessary.”

Sacramento State officials also said they would continue to provide updates as they become available.

©2020 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.