Message From the Chancellor (COVID-19 April 13, 2020 7:31 p.m.)
Student financial concerns and the summer term
Dear Texas Woman’s Community,
I hope this message finds you well and rejuvenated from the weekend.
I want to focus my message today on two frequent concerns I hear from students: 1) student financial resources and refund concerns, and 2) the summer term. It may feel like a lot to read, but I hope what follows will offer everyone a better understanding of these complex issues.
Student financial resources and refund concerns
Let me respond to a summation of several concerns: “1) I have a lot of financial anxiety now; 2) online classes are less expensive than on-campus classes to teach; and 3) I’m not using student fees; so, please offer a partial refund of tuition and fees.”
The faculty, staff, and alumni, along with my leadership team, have been deeply concerned about many students’ unfolding financial situation. From the start of this pandemic, we began to expand the Student Emergency Fund and seeded it with $100,000 (see Student Resources section of the COVID-19 webpage). This seed money came from discretionary funds that the University Advancement team and I raised from donors—alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of Texas Woman’s. Contributions have come in since, and 100% of all of these funds are going directly to students who have financial hardship and loss of income due to COVID-19 repercussions.
The nation is also concerned for students. Many students across the country are not eligible for the direct federal stimulus because they are considered dependents on parent or guardian tax returns. For this reason, part of the stimulus package from the federal government is coming right to Texas Woman’s students. The U.S. Department of Education has stated that colleges should “first prioritize the most disadvantaged students with the greatest needs and second, support continued learning.” We plan to use an expansion of the Student Emergency Fund that we used for the donor-raised funds, following federal guidelines that are still being refined. The VP for Student Life will send out more information once federal funds are available and guidelines are set.
The Student Emergency Fund is how we have addressed—and hope to continue addressing—the changed financial situation of students from the economic impact of COVID-19.
The question of partial refunds for tuition and fees is different, so let me explain. Texas Woman’s is a public university. This means that taxpayer dollars go to support the mission of university. According to an independent analysis in 2018, Texas Woman’s adds $1.8 billion annually to the state economy—which is seen as a worthwhile investment from the point of view of students, taxpayers, and society. Taxpayer investment in students generally carries stipulations about academic progress and completion for students. This is why there are state law limits for Texas Woman’s students on the maximum number of course repeats and why there is a refund schedule published by the bursar on students dropping and withdrawing from classes. It is our duty as a public university to maintain access to education and not disrupt student progress to achieving a degree. Faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to move almost every class online and to continue providing student services such as counseling, advising, academic coaching, and even fitness and recreation programming to ensure that our students are well supported in making the transition online.
More than 20 years ago, Texas Woman’s pioneered distance education. Well before COVID-19, over a third of our courses were already offered online. Our experience put us in a position of strength for the transition to fully online this semester. We already had the online platform—Canvas—established. We already had exceptional instructional designers on staff. We also have many years of perfecting online teaching and learning. So we spent two weeks—one extra week of an extended spring break—to allow faculty to move their face-to-face courses online while seeking to maintain the established teaching and learning excellence that is Texas Woman’s legacy.
In almost every aspect of university operations—library, technology, student services—we are doing more than ever to stretch taxpayer and student investment. For students who lived on campus and chose to move home amid this pandemic, we offered prorated credit on housing and dining for the remainder of the semester. These are what we call “auxiliary operations” which are not taxpayer-supported. Therefore, we offered refunds to students who left university housing and were not using these discretionary services.
I hope these somewhat detailed insights offer you a better understanding of why Texas Woman’s University is not offering across-the-board refunds for tuition and fees. Nonetheless, we are still deeply concerned about our students’ financial wellbeing. As I mentioned earlier, we are addressing student financial need through grants, both from internally raised funds, and soon, from economic stimulus funds granted by the federal government.
The summer term
Starting this summer, there will no longer be four distinct terms as there have been in the past, but rather we will consider all seven sessions within one summer term. This change will benefit students by simplifying billing and financial aid, and it will eliminate multiple billing of fees previously charged each term of the summer. These plans were in the works well before COVID-19 came on the scene, but I’m happy to share the 2020 summer session format information from the registrar's website.
Secondly, University Housing plans to offer free housing this summer to qualified students as it has in the past, provided that official health guidelines allow us to relax the physical distancing requirements. You can look for an application to apply for limited free summer housing soon on the housing website. Again, you will be able to apply soon, and we will do the best we can, assuming the coronavirus situation improves and health officials lift restrictions.
We currently plan on offering courses that start May 11 in a fully online format. We hope that as the summer progresses, official health and safety guidelines will allow us to offer limited face-to-face courses, especially those labs and practicum courses that provide students with valuable experience in using instruments, lab equipment, and other in-person facilities. We also want to prioritize the research focus of faculty and students, following safety protocols, to re-energize the research mission of the university.
Let me reiterate that these are our hopes for this summer, but all plans are contingent upon federal and state officials guidelines for the health and safety of our community. I cannot predict the future with much certainty right now, but as much as we can, we are planning to lift campus restrictions as soon as health officials deem it safe to do so.
I hope this message provides you with helpful perspectives and information underpinning how our university, state, and federal policy and regulations apply to individual students. Texas Woman’s exists to serve the needs of the State of Texas and its citizens, working together—as we always have done—to make our world a better place for all through higher education. I hope that mission shines through in what I have shared!
With a pioneering spirit,
Carine M. Feyten, Ph.D.
Chancellor and President
P.S. For the latest information, check out the TWU COVID-19 webpage.
Page last updated 8:22 AM, April 23, 2020