WICHE Commission approves resolution supporting flexibility in postsecondary education in the West due to COVID-19 outbreak

  • Year Published : 2020
  • Month Published : May
  • Media Type : pdf

BOULDER, Colo.—The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our nation’s education systems, including the nearly 400 public and private colleges and universities in 16 Western states and territories. Prospective students face uncertainty about their academic future in the face of a historic economic downturn.

At WICHE’s biannual meeting, the Commission unanimously approved a resolution recommending that Western states, postsecondary systems, and colleges and universities: provide students — at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels — with more time to apply for admissions and scholarships; allow special considerations for financial aid; expand student-centered approaches that help students stay in school; and ensure access to supports and technological accommodations for students with disabilities, English-language learners and other vulnerable populations.

“The COVID-19 outbreak should not be an insurmountable barrier preventing students in the West from going to college and achieving their dreams,” said Cam Preus, executive director of the Oregon Community College Association and chair of the WICHE Commission. “Colleges and universities throughout the West will work with students and put their needs and concerns at the forefront.”

The resolution outlines nine recommendations encouraging states, systems, colleges, and universities to:

  1. Integrate flexibility into admissions requirements and processes
  2. Integrate flexibility into financial aid requirements and processes
  3. Integrate flexibility for students of special tuition rate/scholarship programs, including but not limited to, WICHE’s Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) and Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP)
  4. Communicate clearly with students and families the most recent policies and practices, including details about upcoming admission decisions and deadlines
  5. Collaborate across sectors, institutions, and state lines to identify student-centered approaches that will promote education continuity, postsecondary attainment, and success.
  6. Establish useful resources dedicated to COVID-19 information to inform students and promote their health and safety.
  7. Move all activities related to admitted student programs, transfer advising, prospective student events, and campus visitations to a virtual experience/platform when possible rather than canceling events.
  8. Ensure equitable access to all of the flexibilities and accommodations established to minimize disruption from COVID-19 for all students, including those with disabilities, English language learners, and other vulnerable populations.
  9. Recognize that many students – likely through no fault of their own – were not able to continue their studies as learning shifted to a distance-based model and deserve the flexibility and accommodation in trying to reengage and continue their educational journey.

“Passing this resolution helps send the message that states in the West are united in supporting students at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels in continuing and completing their programs during this unprecedented pandemic,” Preus said. 

The impact of COVID-19 on the Western region and how help states respond is a priority for the WICHE Commission, which oversees the Western Undergraduate Exchange program and scores of initiatives that help states improve the lives of people across the West through innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy.

“Every state in the region is going the extra mile to ensure that every student in the West finds a path to educational access and success,” said WICHE President Demareé Michelau. “States are working together to ensure that disruptions due to COVID-19 do not adversely affect our students’ ability to obtain a high-quality education in the region.”

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