Dear VCU and VCU Health Community,
We are living in a world that none of us could have imagined, even a month ago. The COVID-19 crisis presents unprecedented challenges in our lives – none of us is untouched by this global pandemic. I am very proud of how the university and health system have risen as One VCU to meet these extraordinary challenges.
We are working to save lives, to educate and to learn.
We are doing this in a crisis situation that changes rapidly and necessitates immediate responses. Flexibility is more important now than ever, and all of you – students, faculty, staff and health care team members – have shown great adaptability and perseverance in this time of crisis.
The COVID-19 epidemic is very real to the VCU community because we are on the front lines. The health system and university have come together to protect the health of all people. I especially want to acknowledge designated staff for their selflessness and courage in carrying out our missions in the most difficult circumstances – our health care team members, police and security, environmental staff and others who cannot stay home because they protect and care for others.
Others of us help them best by staying at home as we work hard to support students who are working hard to complete their studies.
As we go about this work, I want to update you on several issues of concern for which we promised decisions.
We have every intention of starting fall semester on campus as long as it is safe to do so, even if it means shifting the academic calendar to a later start. VCU is committed to getting back to our regular course offerings as soon as possible and we are making plans to return to on campus instruction for Fall 2020. We will keep you updated.
Recognizing the impact of COVID-19 on the spring 2020 semester and maintaining the university’s dedication to limit the spread of the virus, all courses in summer sessions beginning before July 9 will move to remote instruction (online).
At this time, the instructional delivery mode for summer sessions that begin on July 9 and July 20 will maintain their currently scheduled format. We will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 and will be prepared to move these sessions to remote instruction (online) if required. We anticipate making a final announcement about the July 9 and July 20 sessions no later than May 29. More information is available at Summer Studies 2020 Update Webpage.
Students will be contacted directly with detailed information about housing, dining, parking and School of Arts differential credits/refunds. The credits/refunds are in line with other Virginia universities. Information is available on the COVID-19 website credits and refund page. A summary of the credits/refunds follows.
All eligible students who left the residence halls due to the COVID-19 response effective March 13, 2020, will automatically receive a credit/refund. This includes students who were unable to remove all of their belongings and must return at a later time to do so. Residential Life and Housing will communicate directly with students and updates will be available on their website.
- Students with a 9-month contract will receive a credit of $1,150.
- Students with a 12-month contract will receive a credit of $1,450.
- All housing credit/refunds will be applied to your student account and will be visible on students’ accounts on April 9, 2020.
For students not living in on-campus housing as of Monday, April 6, 2020:
- Students will be credited/refunded the calculated value of unused swipes and any unused dining dollars.
For students who have a dining plan, currently living in on-campus housing as of Monday, April 6, 2020:
- A credit will not be processed and dining plans cannot be canceled. Dining plans may be used until 10:30 a.m. on May 9, 2020.
For questions regarding your dining plan and unused credits, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student parking will be refunded for the remaining months in the spring semester. Employee parking will be reimbursed based on permit type. This process will take place over the next several weeks, with priority given to student refunds. VCU Parking and Transportation will communicate directly with subscribers with details about parking refunds and how they will be applied. For additional information regarding parking permit refunds, view the FAQs at https://parking.vcu.edu/covid-19/.
School of Arts Differential
VCU will be issuing a partial reimbursement of the School of Arts differential to Arts majors.
- Full-time students will be credited $350.
- Part-time students will be credited $42 per credit hour.
Tuition and Mandatory Fees
We have heard from many students requesting a refund for tuition and mandatory fees for the Spring 2020 semester. Although we realize this is not the semester you or your faculty planned, it is the reality for college students in the United States and around the world. Faculty, staff and administration have poured enormous effort and resources into making sure that courses can be completed, credits earned, degrees received and challenges surpassed. The university continues to provide essential instructional and support services such as the library, technology, Campus Learning Center and more to provide students a quality learning experience in a remote environment. Tuition and mandatory fees ensure that all of this happens and can continue to happen this semester; therefore, no refunds will be issued for tuition or mandatory fees.
We have two funds that have been established to deal with our COVID-19 situation:
- Student Life and Learning Fund: This fund has been established to support our enrolled student with emergency funds to pay for unexpected costs related to the school closing due to COVID-19. Students can apply for emergency funds through VCU Student Affairs or VCU Financial Aid.
- COVID-19 Response Fund: This fund has been established to support our patient care, research, and medical staff and students who are affected by or are responding to the COVID-19 epidemic in Richmond. An anonymous donor recently made a $1 million challenge gift to support the VCU COVID-19 Response Fund.
VCU will host a virtual commencement celebration, launching May 8, to honor the many achievements of our May 2020 graduates. This involves an interactive online platform to individually recognize students in combination with a virtual commencement and yearbook website. May graduates also are invited to participate in the December commencement ceremonies to honor all 2020 graduates. May graduates will be contacted with more information.
Our fiscal situation for the coming year is challenging. We are monitoring and adjusting based on impacts from COVID-19. Last week, the university initiated a hiring freeze as a preemptive step to help contain costs for the upcoming FY 2020-2021.
We have been in constant communication with our state and federal leaders advocating for funding. The federal CARES relief funding includes $14 billion for higher education. It is not clear at this time how much will be allocated to VCU. However, half of any funding that VCU receives would be passed to our eligible students experiencing COVID-19 financial disruptions in the form of emergency grants, in keeping with forthcoming guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. Once funding is received, students will be notified of the application process.
Despite incredible strains on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s budget, our top priority is to maintain higher education funding at the level arrived at in the proposed state budget, pre-COVID-19 crisis. The state’s FY 2021 budget has not been finalized.
Even though the university’s budget planning is fluid, per state requirements, we must give public notice of our proposed range of tuition and mandatory fees for FY 2021. Our recommendation to the VCU Board of Visitors is not to raise tuition if the state is able to move forward with the Tuition Affordability Plan. This would be our second consecutive year of not raising tuition. However, understanding the economic uncertainties that the COVID-19 crisis has caused, the budget office has also modeled other state funding scenarios resulting in a range of tuition increases between 1% and 6%.
The FY 2021 budget proposal is available on the Board of Visitors' website. The board will consider this budget at its May 8 meeting and is interested in your input. Public comments can be submitted to an electronic portal until 4:30 p.m., Friday, April 24. Access the budget proposal as well as the comment portal here.
I want to end this report with a special message to VCU Health System team members who tirelessly and valiantly have prepared for the COVID-19 surge. I thank you and your university colleagues who have partnered to ensure that we meet our commitment to the people of Virginia. You are doing this in the face of great risk – an unknown virus and a national shortage of protective equipment that is very concerning. We are doing everything we can to keep you safe.
“Thank you” does not sufficiently convey our deep gratitude for all you are doing in your clinical care and your clinical research to save lives and protect our health. You truly are heroes.
Each of us has a role to play in this crisis – to study, to learn, to teach, to discover and to care. We will get through this together.
We are One VCU.
Michael Rao, Ph.D.
President, VCU and VCU Health System