Fall 2020 Questions and Answers

Why did Western decide to go mostly online for fall?

About 80 percent of our classes, including our largest classes, were already scheduled for online instruction. However, based on our current public health situation, we have made the difficult decision to move nearly all classes online. In choosing which classes could continue in-person instruction, we’ve focused on courses in which hands-on and in-person learning is most critical, such as certain labs and arts- and performance-based courses.

What services will be available to students for fall?

Western will continue evaluating what services will be available to students for the fall, including which can be offered virtually instead of in-person. Student support areas like academic advising, career services, and tutoring will continue to explore and improve on their processes to support remotely delivered services. Western will look to state and federal guidance as we make plans to open up facilities and services, such as the Viking Union and the Wade King Student Recreation Center. We will make decisions in line with that guidance. When we have Return to Open plans in place, that address critical health and safety considerations.

How will this affect student employment and work study on campus?

Much like spring quarter, many student employment positions were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; students should reach out to their supervisors to find if their positions continue to be affected.

Financial Questions

Will Western reduce tuition or cut fees since campus services will close? And won’t the university be saving a lot of money by going to remote learning?

Tuition will remain the same, but beginning this fall term, Western will offer a monthly tuition payment plan so that students can pay tuition in monthly installments, rather than a single, larger lump-sum payment. Western's Student Business Office website will provide more details about how payment plans can assist you in paying your college expenses.

When we pivoted to remote learning last spring, most of our faculty had never taught a course online, and they had less than two weeks to rapidly translate classes designed to be taught in person to a completely different format. Students and parents provided invaluable feedback on their experiences with spring’s online classes.Western is providing development opportunities for faculty this summer, so that fall instruction might have as many pedagogical tools as possible to make the learning experience for students an engaged one.

The depth of our recent and current experience with remote instruction has faculty across many disciplines finding new and creative ways to re-envision the teaching/learning process, rather than trying to translate a face-to-face experience to one applicable to remote instruction.Regarding value, unfortunately these quality-improvement efforts and the pivot to online learning actually increase rather than decrease costs.

In addition, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on state revenues is expected to result in a 10-15% cut to Western’s state support, which constitutes close to 50% of Western’s operating budget. The other half of Western’s budget comes from tuition revenue, and higher education enrollments are projected to fall nationwide by as much as 20% this fall. Thus, a reduction in tuition at this time is not financially feasible, and would undermine the quality and number of courses offered, as well as the student support services that are even more important during these stressful times. In the absence of such an option, we are even more committed to making the Western experience we can offer to students through hybrid, online, and limited in-person classes the best it can be, and worth your tuition investment.

We understand that the pandemic has created more stress for many students and families, and Western is working on finding and developing more resources to help students who are struggling financially, including extra student aid and direct technology support. WWU's Board of Trustees in August voted to cut fees by more than 10 percent for fall to reflect the change in what is open to students on campus. The fees were cut as deeply as possible while still meeting fixed costs of operations, bond payments and related legal fiscal requirements.

As in normal quarters, these mandatory fees are included in the cost of education calculation for student financial aid awards, so that financial need is considered for both tuition and fee assistance. See fall's updated fees on our Tuition and Fee Schedule page.

What about out-of-state students. Any change in tuition for fall?

In-state resident undergraduate students and out-of-state undergraduate students have a difference in tuition because Western is a state-funded university. As such, the taxpayers of Washington state already have paid a significant subsidy, via taxes, to support the operations of Western, so that is reflected in tuition costs at Western and other public universities. Similarly, those in-state and out-of-state rates still apply to remote learning taught by Western faculty, many of whom are leaders in their fields of subject matter and research.

Will the change in course delivery to remote learning impact my financial aid?

Remote-learning course delivery is approved by the Department of Education through December 2020. If you are receiving federal student loans and Pell grants, you will keep eligibility.

If I decide to defer my enrollment until next quarter, will my financial aid and WWU scholarships still be available?

Financial Aid is awarded on an academic year basis with aid apportioned on a per-quarter basis. ​Federal, state and institutional aid eligibility will need to be recalculated, but in many but not all cases, aid awarded for winter and spring will still be available. The determination of whether WWU scholarships can be kept for winter/spring is made by WWU colleges and departments. Please contact the department or college that awarded the scholarship to determine your eligibility.

What about private (external/outside of WWU) scholarships? Will those be affected if I defer to winter quarter?

If students decide to skip fall and attend winter/spring, the decision of whether the fall portion of their private scholarships can apply to winter and spring is up to individual scholarship donors. The Scholarship Center will work with private scholarship donors as well as students to determine the allocation of the unused scholarship funds. Please contact the Scholarship Center at scholarshipcenter@wwu.edu to discuss your options.

Is there Federal CARES grant funding available?

Financial Aid will re-open the Federal CARES grant (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities) application for students to apply for CARES grants on Thursday, October 15, 2020, at 8 a.m. and will close it on Monday, October 26, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.  Students who meet basic Federal criteria for CARES grant consideration will be notified that the application will be re-opened via individual e-mails and through the Financial Aid website. 

The timeframe for applying for Federal CARES grant funding is limited because funds are winding down.  We anticipate that requests for funding will exceed available funds.  So far, Financial Aid has authorized disbursement of nearly $4.7 million in CARES funding to 3,273 Western students.  We will award the approximate remaining $1.1 million of Western’s $5.8 million allocation within the next several weeks.  

Eligibility requirements for Federal Cares grant funding are very specific. The Federal government stipulates that CARES-fundable expenses must directly result from disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus. If you know of students who may qualify, please encourage them to complete and submit a Federal CARES grant application on the Financial Aid website.

What about if I defer to next year?

Financial Aid and WWU departmental scholarships are awarded on an annual basis. Financial aid eligibility for the 2021-2022 academic year is based on completing the 2021-2022 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), regardless of enrollment or deferral. WWU scholarships, will, in most cases, be awarded fully for the 2020-2021 academic year and not available for a deferral. If a student defers their enrollment until the 2021-2022 academic year, they may need to re-apply for scholarships for the new academic year. Please contact your academic department if you are awarded a 2020-2021 scholarship and are considering deferring to next year. Multi-year scholarships or those awarded by Admissions may have different accommodations for deferral. Please contact the Admissions Office or awarding department for more information. For students with private (external/outside of WWU) scholarships, any funds received at Western may be sent back to the donor to be reissued during the 2021-2022 academic year. Please contact the Scholarship Center at scholarshipcenter@wwu.edu if you will be deferring for a year and have private scholarships.

When will a decision be made on whether winter or spring quarters will be online or face to face?

On Oct. 16, Western announced the decision to move forward with a Winter Quarter with approximately the same levels of face-to-face instruction and campus residency levels as Fall Quarter. This decision was informed by current virus numbers and projected trends for winter, and based on the recommendation of the university’s Incident Command Structure (ICS) and the Academic Coordinating Committee of the Faculty Senate. One change to note is that Winter Quarter will start as scheduled on January 5, but all classes will be remote until January 11 to accommodate for the testing of all students returning to campus residences, face-to-face classes or any other on-campus presence after the long holiday break.

What does this mean for Everett and Poulsbo courses?

Other Western sites also will follow this remote-learning plan in combination with the plans of their host institutions such as Everett University Center, Olympic College and Peninsula College.

What campus services will be available in person and which will be remote only?

Students will be able to access online academic advising, online counseling and health and wellness services, online career services, online Tutoring Center assistance, online research and writing support, and online access to library resources. Students will also be able to request physical access to library materials that will be made available for on-site pickup or mailed directly to students.

Can I defer my enrollment if I’m a first-year student?

First-year students are still able to submit their deferral request and will be considered on a case-by-case basis leading up to the beginning of the Fall 2020 term. Please review and submit the Deferral Request Form as soon as you have a plan.

How will I get my course materials?

Western’s Associated Students Bookstore operates with minimal markup to provide course materials at affordable cost. Store staff and student employees have been working with faculty as they shift to remote instruction to get a variety of course material formats for student choice, including text rentals, digital access, used and new course materials.

The store will not be open for walk-in sales or in-person order pickup, but will be fulfilling online orders and shipping for a flat fee. The online store also offers sportswear, school supplies, logo masks, etc. Fall course materials will post to the bookstore website (bookstore.wwu.edu) on Aug. 22, and student accounts for Bookstore purchases are open from Aug. 23 through Oct. 22. Purchases online can be made with student accounts, credit/debit/gift cards, and through agency accounts.

On-Campus Housing Questions

If my in-person classes are now all being taught remotely, what options do I have to change my housing choices for fall? Is there a deadline to cancel on-campus housing?

We understand many residents will want to remain at their permanent address if in-person classes are now all online. If you would like to change your Housing status for fall quarter, you will be able to state one of the following two options in the MyHousing Portal:

  • You want to cancel fall but may want Housing winter/spring quarter
  • You want to cancel Housing for the 2020-21 academic year

For residents canceling before Fall Move In, please note the following deadlines:

  • Returning residents must change their Housing status before August 15 to avoid the $600 Renewal Cancellation Fee
  • Incoming residents must change their Housing status before Sept. 4 to avoid losing $200 Housing Deposit

For residents canceling after moving on campus, please review Contract Breakage Fee.Students who previously committed to living on-campus because of in-person classes that have now moved to remote learning will be able to make changes to their housing plan and can contact housing@wwu.edu to discuss their options for canceling or deferring.

How many students can live in a room together this fall?

Working in tandem with Western’s strategy for safety, we are closely following the American College Health Association’s (ACHA) guidelines for campus housing programs.As of July 30, 2020:

  • All residence halls are single-occupancy rooms only
  • Birnam Wood Apartments will only house two residents per room
  • All residence halls on the Ridge are unavailable

If students take all remote-learning courses and live at home for fall quarter or defer to winter quarter, will they still get housing?

We expect to have room for all incoming students and active returners wishing to wait until their classes are in-person and housing occupancy returns to normal during the 2020-21 academic year.

I have more on-campus housing questions. Where can I go?

See https://housing.wwu.edu/fall-housing-faqs or email housing@wwu.edu.

What about off-campus housing?

For students who are living off-campus and are hoping to get out of a lease because of changes to their classes, Western advises discussing options with your landlord or property management company. Students can visit Western's Office of Off Campus Living for information on how to contact Bellingham property managers about rental options. The Office of Off-Campus Living works with many landlords and rental agencies to communicate Western’s academic plans and to encourage them to be student-centered in their business approach.

Leases are private legal agreements so Western does not have standing to affect changes once leases are signed. We encourage student-renters to communicate directly with their landlord or rental agencies. It can always help for students to know their rights and legal options and Washington LawHelp has helpful information at https://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/issues/housing/tenants-rights.

For other questions, please check https://offcampusliving.wwu.edu/.

Employee Questions

How will this change, and the loss of revenue from housing, impact Western’s budget? Will furloughs or layoffs be needed?

The university is examining the potential negative impact of this shift to remote learning on its budget projections for fall, and will communicate these findings to the campus community as soon as possible. The hiring, purchasing, and travel freezes enacted in the spring remain in place.

What does this mean for an employee planning to return to campus?

The governor’s mandate on remote work means that those people who can and should work remotely should continue to do so. With reduced student numbers on campus, this means that the only people who should be on campus should be those that:

  • Are already designated as critical on-site employees who must perform their work on site
  • Must be on site to support the minimal fall academic operations
  • Are unable to perform some of their functions remotely and meet an exception to work onsite according to the State’s phased Safe Start plan.

If individuals are not able to continue to work remotely due to equipment, technology or furniture issues, the department should make every attempt to make sure the employee has a suitable remote working environment and equipment as per the Workplace FAQs on the COVID-19 resource site.

What about department reopening plans?

To help maintain a safe working environment, all departments, including those that have critical on-site employees, are asked to submit a department reopening plan as per the Safe Start Western website. If a department has already submitted a plan and their on-site activity is affected by the fall academic decision, the department will need to submit an updated plan through the ReADY system.

Are there any changes to managing on-site employees?

ICS is currently evaluating the system by which we track staff, faculty and vendors on site. Until any changes are announced, please continue to use the on-site visit form for occasional visits or ensure your employees are on the critical on-site staff list. Additions to the critical on-site list require approval by the respective supervisor and divisional vice president.