For 166 years, Columbia College has provided an academically rigorous, career-relevant, and empowering educational experience. The hallmarks of the College include small classes, personal attention, mentoring, and innovative teaching and student services provided by faculty and staff truly dedicated to each student’s success. The heart and soul of the College are found in the intimate and affirming culture that is achieved in person-to-person encounters that prepare our graduates for lives of meaning and purpose. For these reasons, Columbia College will reopen in mid-August with students on campus for classes and living in residence halls. Extensive plans have already been undertaken and will continue through the summer to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff are the highest priorities.
Dear Students and their Families:
The phrase “dedicated to student success” is often heard at Columbia College. The faculty and staff are remarkable in both their talent and their support of students. In addition to this dedication, the College has a distinguished history, especially in responding to challenges and even crises. COVID-19 is certainly a crisis, and we have responded with the 4C’s that define Columbia College: Courage, Commitment, Confidence, and Competence. It takes courage to envision new and better ways to prevail in a crisis. It takes commitment to ensure all students succeed. It takes confidence to implement creative new programs. And it takes competence to do everything possible to meet the short and long-term needs and expectations of our students and their families—and most importantly, the health, safety, and well-being of our campus community.
On May 12, faculty and staff developed two potential academic calendars, both would enable students to return to campus in August and spend the time between Thanksgiving and January 11, 2021 at home. We asked students and their families to vote for the calendar they preferred. Of the 197 who responded by May 19, 76% preferred the traditional calendar with classes on-campus until November 20, no Fall Break, a week-long Thanksgiving Break, and the final week of classes and exams done remotely. Below are the highlights of the 2020-21 academic year:
- Our first day of classes will remain August 24, 2020
- Our last day on-campus will be Friday, November 20, 2020
- November 30 – December 4, 2020: Last week of classes taught remotely
- December 6-10, 2020: Exam Week done remotely
- December 11, 2020: Graduation
- We expect classes will begin on campus on January 11
- Exams end April 29, 2021
- April 30, 2021: Graduation
The rationale for the new calendar is to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our students, while at the same time providing a dynamic, engaged, interactive, and rigorous educational experience. We know that Thanksgiving week will be a time when students are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Likewise, the Christmas holiday and new year are times when students are vulnerable to infection, especially since December through January is often the peak of flu season. Our plan is that we can begin Spring Semester on January 11, 2021 with students on campus. In-season athletes will be able to stay in our residence halls and participate in their sport.
Several questions were raised in the comment section of the survey. Below are the most frequent questions and our plan to address them:
What if I need more than 18 credit hours?
Since this is the same schedule as already in place, students may enroll in 18 or more semester hours in conformity with current academic policies. Full tuition covers between 12-18 credit hours. The cost for each hour over 18 is $650, the same as in the past.
If I already registered, will my schedule change?
No, your schedule will remain the same. Those returning students who have not registered should do so no later than May 27, 2020, because we will need to cap class size to accommodate social distancing.
Will the room rate be reduced?
The room rates per semester are:
Double: $2,049, with Knox & Kneece Halls an additional $50
Double as a Single: $2,575
All new (First-Year and Transfer) students will live one person per double room and will be charged the single room rate of $2,209 instead of the double as a single rate of $2,575.Several returning students have already signed up for their rooms with some living in double rooms. Because these students know their roommate, their room choices will be honored, if desired, with the expectation that social distancing is observed.
Returning students living in a single room or double as a single will be charged $2,209.All students required to leave on November 20, 2020 will receive a 10% remittance first applied to any unpaid balance with any remaining money applied to Spring Semester. Graduating seniors will receive a 10% remittance applied first to any unpaid balance with any remaining money sent to the student in the form of a check.
Will the board (meal plan) rate be reduced for the Fall Semester?
Residence hall students will live on campus 91 days and at home 11 days (in addition to Thanksgiving week when there are no classes). Students required to leave campus on November 20, 2020 will receive a 10% remittance applied first to any unpaid balance with any remaining money applied to Spring Semester. Graduating seniors will receive a 10% remittance applied first to any unpaid balance with any remaining money sent to the student in the form of a check.
Will there be athletics?
Both CC and our NAIA Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) plan for our sports teams to have a season. A final decision on the length and type of season is expected to be finalized by the NAIA and ACC by July 1, 2020. Should the season go beyond November 20, 2020 in the Fall or start before January 11, 2021, we will make room and board arrangements similar to previous years.
I struggled with online courses, are faculty ready not only to teach online but to provide support?
Our plan for the Fall Semester has only one week of classes online. Moreover, with many final exams replaced by a paper, a final project, or a presentation, the amount of online work is minimal. Most importantly, our faculty’s devotion to excellence in teaching has resulted in faculty participating in professional development throughout the summer on ways to enhance online teaching and support remote learning.
What about lab classes?
All labs will be completed by November 20 for the Fall Semester.
In addition to faculty working all summer to prepare to teach both on-campus and remotely, our staff will be developing policies, procedures, and training to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the entire campus community (students, faculty, and staff). Faculty at high risk of COVID-19 will have the option of teaching face-to-face, online, or a hybrid combination of face-to-face and online. Issues such as testing, tracking, dedicated space for quarantine, social distancing, training about COVID-19, residential life, and dining will be included in a detailed list of these policies, procedures, and training to be available by July 1, 2020. Some of the plans, policies, and procedures are listed below:
- 0%, yes ZERO, of classes at Columbia College in the Fall Semester have over 30 students. With 75% of our classes having 20 or fewer students and an average class size of 13, there are sufficient classrooms to accommodate all classes with social distancing. Unlike larger universities, you will take classes together with your fellow students and expert professors, taking full advantage of the outstanding learning community at Columbia College.
- In-person laboratory classes will be limited to a small number of students and lab exams will be given before Thanksgiving.
- Sports teams will play with players tested for coronavirus.
- While limited due to social distancing, we still anticipate a few spectators at sporting events.
- Face masks/face coverings will be required on campus in public settings as defined by DHEC and CDC. The College will provide one reusable mask to each student and replacement masks will be available at the cost of $3.00.
- Special arrangements will be made for dining to ensure social distancing.
- Several specific areas on campus will be designated for social gatherings in small groups with social distancing.
- Facilities will be retrofitted with multiple hand sanitizers, easier access, frequent cleaning of high touch areas, and other enhancements to reaffirm health, safety, and well-being as our top priority.
- Testing of students, staff, and faculty, as well as strategies for tracking and facilities for quarantine, will be implemented
- The recommended ratio for quarantine is 5 bedrooms per 1,000 students; we anticipate no more than 400 students living on campus and have a facility to house four (4) students in quarantine, double the ratio.
- Other policies, procedures, and training programs will be developed over the summer to be implemented in the Fall.
We know the post COVID-19 society will be different in many ways and colleges will have to function differently to adapt to the new normal. However, the mission of Columbia College, “to prepare every student personally and professionally for success through strong liberal arts and professional programs emphasizing service, social justice, and leadership development,” remains the same. Likewise, our commitment to student success, to a positive and enriching educational experience, to mentoring and supporting students in their academic and social development, and to ensure the health safety, and well-being of our campus community remains central to our mission. This new normal will require new rules and regulations such as masks, testing, tracking, and social distancing. In turn, Columbia College will need to be creative and innovative in meeting the needs and expectations of our students. Most importantly, all of us need to be focused on preparing our graduates for the post-COVID-19 society. Some surveys state that students are considering taking a year off. Ironically, attending college this year could be the most valuable time for higher education, primarily because each student will be learning how to navigate the post COVID-19 society in an incredibly supportive and affirming environment.
With courage, commitment, confidence, and competence, Columbia College will open in mid-August and will provide another year of outstanding learning, mentoring, personal growth, and fun in a caring and reaffirming community that keeps the health, safety, and well-being of the campus community as the highest priority. Obviously, should another massive COVID-19 outbreak occur at any time during the 2020-21 academic year, we are prepared to pivot literally in hours to remote learning that is high quality, high tech, and high touch.
We are as excited as any year since our founding in 1854 to welcome a group of terrific students to the Columbia College campus this August. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, stay strong!
Peter T. Mitchell, Ed.D