Message from President Corey on Fall 2020 Reopening

Jul. 28, 2020 By Internal Communications

 

Dear Biola community, 

I know the COVID-19 pandemic has created a long season of uncertainty, especially for new or returning students and for their families. Many have been waiting for news on how we will begin the fall 2020 semester in light of the recent surge in coronavirus cases in California. I am truly thankful for your patience during these past few weeks. I am also grateful for the fortitude of Biola’s own 1,000-member community of faculty and staff who for weeks have been working on a number of scenarios for the fall in case the state issued guidance with tighter restrictions than we expected or kept our existing prohibition from opening. 

On April 30, I shared that absent any restrictions from California’s state or county authorities, we would be prepared to have on-campus instruction this fall. We have planned extensively with dozens of leaders covering with precision every imaginable detail for hyflex on-campus education. Our decision in April as well as our reopening plans in the intervening months were made with good data, a lot of input and with prayerful discernment. They were also always pending state and county guidance. 

Unfortunately, we are still waiting as no updated guidance has been issued by the state, and we are not alone in waiting for it. The state has released guidelines for almost every type of business in California to reopen, but nothing on higher education. 

Now, with the surge in COVID-19 cases in the state and L.A. County, the state has focused its efforts on mitigating the spread of the virus and rolling back reopening plans across the state. California is still in Stage 2 of its reopening plan, and higher education is allowed to reopen when we are into Stage 3. We don’t know when we’ll move to Stage 3, but I hope that comes soon. 

In light of the fact there has been no further guidance issued by the governor for higher education, we need to make our decisions based on already-existing guidance. Because of this and with full support from the Cabinet and approval from the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, I am announcing today the following decisions. 

Our first decision: We will begin the fall semester August 31 remotely in all of our undergraduate and graduate programs with the high level of academic excellence and student support services distinctive of Biola University. For our continuing students, we recognize that the quick pivot to remote learning this last spring was challenging for all. We have focused considerable effort over the last few months in preparation to deliver an exceptional remote classroom experience this fall. Students will notice the difference! 

Most of our courses will be taught from our Biola classrooms aided by the significant infrastructure investments we have made over the summer in new educational technologies. We are even launching new remote ways to walk with students through programs in spiritual formation, prayer and worship, academic advising, career guidance, faculty mentoring, specialized learning, internship networking, personal counseling, clubs and organizations and all of the other student services characteristic of Biola. We are also launching a brand new university mobile app during the fall to enhance the student experience at Biola. We have a wide array of plans underway that will support students until they come to campus.

Our second decision: If at some point we are granted permission by state and county authorities to reopen in the fall semester for on-campus learning and living — consistent with Biola’s high level of educational and safety standards — we will assess when and how to welcome students to return to campus. We will make our decisions based on government guidance at that time, county health authorities, healthcare experts, best practices in reducing risks and our own safety assurances. We will do so with an unwavering care for the health of our students, faculty, staff and neighbors. We wish we knew more about when we could do this, but again we will follow the guidance of the state and government for the go-ahead to return to campus this fall.

Our third decision: In the event we open our campus at any point in the semester for students to join for in-person living and learning, students will have the option to continue the semester in a remote learning mode. Maybe the digital learning option will suit some students for the fall. Maybe because of health, distance, job or comfort level, students would rather complete the semester remotely. That is perfectly fine. We will be flexible. We want to accommodate what works best for students, serving them and adapting our academic courses and co-curricular programs in a way that meets their needs during this COVID-19 disruption.

Tuition Relief Grant

Our fourth decision: To provide students with a COVID-19 Tuition Relief Grant toward the fall semester. We know how difficult COVID-19 has been for so many. Some students have not been able to work this summer, or their families had to tighten their belts financially, or it’s just been a long season of hardships. To help a bit with these challenges, we are providing our students with a relief grant (with some exceptions for those students whose tuition is already covered or will be fully covered by institutional aid and/or other tuition-based scholarships). 

Full-time students will receive a one-time Biola COVID-19 Tuition Relief Grant for the fall semester that is based on their program, in accordance with the table below. Part-time students will receive a prorated amount based on their program enrollment level.

 

Program

Full-Time Grant Amount for Fall Semester

Traditional Undergraduate

$2,000

Online Bachelor’s

$450

Master’s

$450

Teacher Certification

$450

Doctoral

$300

 

This will be in addition to the financial aid package students were given. (The Financial Aid office will follow up with students later this week.) Students will not have to pay this back. It’s not a loan, and they are not going to lose it when they return to campus. It’s meant to be a way of standing with them in the hardships they have faced, and I know there have been many. We want students here! And for prospective students who have not yet committed to Biola and are still interested in attending, they should connect with an admissions counselor. If admitted and they choose to enroll, we will offer these potential students this grant as well.

Finally, our fifth decision: Current state guidelines allow for limited exemptions based on students who are being educated to support the essential healthcare infrastructure. We are confident our clinical nursing and psychology doctoral students qualify for this exemption. They will be welcome to on-campus learning and living at the beginning of the fall semester. We are still waiting for further guidance as to whether students with extenuating circumstances who are not already living on campus will also be part of the exemption. 

So those are our decisions. 

1.    We are planning to begin the semester August 31 with remote learning. 

2.    If we get the green light from the government, and consistent with Biola’s high level of educational and safety standards, we are open to welcoming students to campus during the fall semester. 

3.    We want students to feel no pressure to return if we open the campus, and they will still receive a quality education if they choose to remain remote for the semester. 

4.    To help students, we have set aside grant money as a way of standing with them financially. 

5.    The campus will be open for clinical nursing and psychology doctoral students to take program-specific courses and live in on-campus housing when we start the semester at the end of August, and this exemption may also extend to others.

I understand these decisions are certainly not what our students and their families--not to mention our faculty and staff--imagined when thinking of Biola this fall. And we all have had more than a few setbacks and hardships these past four months. This unanticipated pandemic seems to have altered all of our best-made plans, and yet we are fully committed to making this a worthwhile season for all at Biola. It is going to be a different semester for all of us, but it is going to be a strong semester. 

We still believe that the quality education students will be experiencing remotely will be distinctively Biola, both in academics and co-curricular student services. Faculty members have been fine-tuning their courses for the fall. We are developing new ways through technology to connect with our students until they return, going above and beyond to make our educational experience truly transformative. 

There could be no better time than during this COVID-19 pandemic to be part of Biola University where students are encouraged to live into their passions, to bolster their faith, to mature their biblical worldview, to examine current culture through the lens of Scripture and their academic discipline, to sharpen their minds and to learn to live for Christ. The world needs a generation of Jesus followers to emerge from this disturbing season of suffering in order to serve the church and society with new creativity, more courage and a heart of compassion for the world. 

Students and their families will see that Biola is not compromising our mission one iota. Not at all. We are as committed as ever to provide a biblically centered education for our students to grow in mind and character in order to influence the world for the cause of Christ. This is why we are so confident that Biola University is a place where students develop, especially during this challenging season. This is what gets us up every morning, even during this temporary season of remote learning.

What a time for students to be stretched and grow into the incredibly mature, wise and godly person Christ is forming them to be. Throughout history, Christians — many of them young adults like our students — persevered and matured profoundly in the midst of tough times. This is why we are so confident in the strength of a Biola education.

Thank you for taking the time to read our decisions for the fall. We look forward to seeing students on the screen and then in person. I encourage you to reach out to let us know how we can help. Feel free to call the main Biola number at (562) 903-6000 if you have any questions about the fall. Visit Biola’s Coronavirus Response site for FAQs or to learn more about other financial support available for the fall semester. 

In closing, we invite incoming and returning students and families to a town hall next week. Details will be forthcoming. If you have specific questions, please submit them via this form. We will respond to your questions and provide as much information as we can. 

We are here for you. We are praying for you. We love you. Rise up with wings like eagles!

Sincerely,

Barry H. Corey

President

 

 

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Comments

  • Manuel Alvarenga-Flores Oct. 4, 2020 at 5:58 PM

    When will students be allowed to attend in-person classes?

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