American University Finally Announces Fall 2020 Plan

American University announced on Tuesday, June 16 their plan for the fall semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. This plan encompasses classes, dining, housing, community care, employment, and the financial impact of COVID-19 on AU's community. The health, safety, and well-being of AU students, faculty, and staff is paramount to this plan. It was developed based on current and anticipated health and financial conditions related to COVID-19 and the need for safety protocols, but this fall will be entirely different than a 'typical semester'. 

Classes

Classes are available in every possible online/in-person hybrid method, except for entirely in-person classes. Their plan consists of a hybrid format with a mix of online and in-person classes to allow students to return to campus if they choose. Otherwise, students will then have the option to take classes online remotely from their homes. The format a student chooses will be dependent on their comfortability around people due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, there will also be a reduced number of students within classrooms to maintain social distancing. Larger classes will be conducted online and each school is respectively releasing which classes will be following the hybrid model or functioning in a complete online setting.

Housing

For health and safety reasons, American is reducing the number of students who are going to be living within residence halls. Housing assignments will be prioritized to guarantee first-year students a living space on campus and offer a portion of the sophomore class housing on campus. Each freshman hall will only have one student per room with four students per bathroom (sounds insane). They have yet to release the cost of living for freshman living in singles. Incoming students are wondering what the cost of on-campus living will be.

And the cherry on top of this underdeveloped plan leaves the rest of the AU student body to make living arrangements somewhere else. 

apartment building low angle Brandon Griggs on Unsplash AU has an off-campus posting site to help those students find a living space at a reasonable price. For the sophomore class, they are also offering hotel rooms to stay in since sophomore housing is supposed to be guaranteed by AU. The cost of these rooms? Inexplicably high.

AU has also adopted enhanced cleaning and disinfecting techniques on top of their routine cleanings and maintenance around campus. 

For safety reasons, one residence hall will remain unoccupied for self-isolation of oncampus residential students who have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

Dining

To access the terrace dining room (TDR), students will have to make a reservation for a table to sit and eat at instead of just walking in and grabbing food.

Packaged meals will be available and take-away options and a mobile ordering system will be available for select retail food options. AU students: do not expect this to be a quick pick up situation. We all remember Elevation Burger.

Chartwells employees will undergo temperature checks and will be required to wear face coverings at all times. Plexiglass shields will be in place at all point of sale locations, pick up areas, and service areas. How much is this going to add to our meal plan costs?

AU's Financial Plan

Basically, AU lost a ton of money. In a recent email all AU subscribers received, the urgent actions they took in handling COVID-19 cost the university $27 million in addition to the $100 million loss in revenue, which will have a financial impact on the university through the 2021 fiscal year. The adminstration is planning on widespread budget cuts, hiring freezes, merit decreases, pausing all construction projects, and spending our unrestricted money from our endowment. But the only thing they aren't cutting is tuition. AU students are not experiencing a well-rounded collegiate education by having online classes, restricted access to campus, little to no housing, and limited communication with peers, colleagues, and professors. There are many students looking for different options than returning to AU's online fiasco at the running rate of $48,459. 

money money unsplash As of 2019, our entire endowment totals to $723.4 million. President Burwell mentioned that AU will spend all of their unrestricted endowment funds towards the financial defecit that COVID created. The 2018 budget report reveals that our unrestricted endowment totals to a little over a million dollars. Our question is, why is that not being used to lower tuition rates since online classes are an insurmountable expense to the student body's well-rounded education?

The email also mentions suspension of matching AU employee retirement contributions, a one week unpaid furlough next January, limited infrastructure spending, and non-personnel spending reductions. AU students are wondering if President Burwell and her Cabinet are going to take salary cuts in order to curb the financial downfall AU is facing. 

AU is planning to begin the fall 2020 semester on time starting August 24 (WCL starts August 21). They plan on ending the fall semester by Thanksgiving while continuing the last week of classes and finals online after the holiday to limit travel throughout campus. It has also been decided to no longer have a fall break to limit the traveling of students and take the weekend of October 9-11 as fall skills and career development days. 

All community members will be required to maintain social distancing and wear facemasks at all times on campus except for when alone in private offices or residence hall rooms. There will also be testing capabilities on campus with an isolation building available for those who test positive.

Source: 1, 2

Photos: Her Campus Media