I have been carrying with me in recent weeks the Chinese proverb, “be in readiness for favorable winds.” Perhaps it is the planner in me. There is no denying that we remain buffeted by uncertain winds from the coronavirus, economic conditions, state directives, and enrollment choices. Still, our focused and diligent preparations ensure we will be ready to roar regardless of the weather.
This corona-missive offers some new and newsy snippets as we prepare to turn the calendar from May to June.
Readiness Task Forces. Last week I announced the establishment of five Readiness Task Forces and an overarching Readiness Coordination Team to finalize TCNJ’s preparations for fall 2020. As described on our newly developed website, these faculty-staff-student-administrator groups are operating according to key guiding assumptions and principles. The timetable is aggressive—priorities identified by June 3, action steps analyzed by June 15—to ensure the college has the information and understandings to make smart choices for the fall. On the website are the rosters of each task force and the coordination team, descriptions of the scope of their work, and a place to provide your input directly.
Surveys. We are preparing short surveys to ascertain preferences for TCNJ’s fall 2020 education, either on-campus or online. The results will support our readiness work. First-year and transfer students will receive their survey by early next week with a separate survey to their parents/guardians a few days later. Continuing students will receive their survey by mid-week, with a separate survey for their parents/guardians to come shortly thereafter. We will also be repeating in the next few weeks the early-May survey of faculty and staff to learn how employee perspectives on fall 2020 have changed, if at all. All responses are anonymous and non-binding. Please participate to share your views.
Emergency Student Aid, Round Two. This week, the federal government broadened eligibility for emergency grant aid due to disruptions from COVID-19. In particular, federal emergency student grants provided by the CARES Act will no longer be limited to students who receive Title IV aid. If you did not previously apply, but are now eligible, please complete an application. We have distributed most of the $2.5 million in funds, but nearly $300,000 remains for newly eligible applicants.
Enrollment. With understanding that enrollment choices are more fluid this year than in past years, I am pleased to report that TCNJ’s enrollments are bucking national projections for sharp declines. As of May 28, 2020, continuing undergraduate enrollment for fall 2020, at 5,267 headcount (5,139 full-time equivalent), exceeds that of one year ago and is nearly identical to our original budget for FY21. With a few days to go before the June 1 “declare by” date for first-year students, TCNJ has enrolled 1,512 incoming students, about 4.6 percent below our budgeted number of 1,585. With 237 transfers already, transfer enrollments are on track for a budgeted 240 for fall 2020. In all, these data reinforce the appeal of TCNJ as a college home. Congratulations and thanks to TCNJ Enrollment Management and the faculty, staff, and students who participated in recruitment and yield activities. Everyone has done a superb job in an exceptionally difficult year.
Media Coverage. Media outlets continue to reach out to TCNJ for views and information on items of the day. Among recent pieces are those on new Title IX regulations (Jordan Draper in the Philadelphia Inquirer), TCNJ’s decision to make standardized tests optional (Lisa Angeloni on NJ 101.5), and the debate over whether New Jersey schools should give letter grades during a pandemic (Maureen Connolly in NJ.com).
We Roar Podcast. Finally, I was pleased to contribute to “We Roar,” an innovative podcast series from Princeton University, which features a range of stories and reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic. My 10-minute episode discusses the future of post-pandemic higher education. I muse that not all colleges will make it, but offer that there is reason for hope and opportunity, too.
In a time when humor too often seems at bay, I end with this funny and clever hits-close-to-home satire brought to my attention by a TCNJ faculty member. Thanks again for your immense patience as we continue these “notes about our plans for next semester” and more.
With warm regards,
Kathryn A. Foster