We took a straw poll of the Trinity campus community during the week of August 19, 2020, as the first wave of classes began. Nearly 300 students, faculty and staff participated, a good representative sample, and the pie chart above shows a healthy balance among all participating cohorts.
We asked students answering the survey to provide some information about themselves:
The snapshot above includes students from all cohorts, but the concerns are universal. Some details based on the respective academic unit cohorts:
- 35% of CAS students report working more than 20 hours a week while attending Trinity, compared to 40% of NHP students and 75% of PGS students. (PGS includes all professional and graduate students including those historically including in cohorts for SPS, BGS and EDU). While PGS students trend older, have more children and are more likely to attend part-time while working, the fact that more than one-third of CAS and NHP students work more than 20 hours per week is significant.
- More than 25% of CAS and NHP students, and 58% of PGS students, say that, “My wages an an important source of economic support for my family.”
- More than 15% of CAS and NHP students, and 12% of PGS students, report that they have lost a job due to coronavirus.
- Financial concerns weigh heavily on Trinity students. As the chart above shows, nearly one-third are concerned about paying rent and other living expenses, while nearly half are concerned about paying for their Trinity tuition and educational expenses. This breaks out by cohort as follows:
- CAS = 29% concerned about living expenses and 48% concerned about Trinity expenses;
- NHP = 23% concerned about living expenses and 33% concerned about Trinity expenses;
- PGS = 37% concerned about living expenses and 49% concerned about Trinity expenses.
What is Trinity doing to help alleviate student financial concerns?
We have several immediate responses and will be providing more information and support as the semester goes along:
1) We have allowed all returning students to re-enroll even if balances exceed $4,000, the usual threshold to stop re-enrollment. We do need the balances to be paid down, and we are working with each student individually on how that might occur. As we evaluate financial need, we are also trying to increase the amount of financial aid in student packages to help manage student balances. Trinity already provides significant tuition discounts for full-time students (as much as 50% in some cases) and part-time tuitions are all discounted already. We are very grateful to some extraordinarily generous benefactors who are making additional charitable gifts that can help to support our students with additional tuition grants.
2) We have reduced or eliminated fees as possible, including lab fees, enrollment fees and parking fees.
3) Thanks to some very generous donors, we have continued to build student emergency assistance fund so students who have critical financial needs (paying rent or utility bills, etc.) may apply for emergency assistance grants. Trinity also continues to maintain our food pantry administered by Dean of Students Michele Bowie.
4) Thanks to the remaining CARES Act funding, more than $1 million of which was distributed to students in the spring, we have also obtained a supply of Chromebooks for students who need computers. Students may apply for a laptop through the Chromebook distribution program administered by Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Karen Gerlach.
What’s Needed for Fall 2020 Success
We asked everyone, “What do you need to be successful in the Fall 2020 semester?”
Everybody agrees that “staying safe from coronavirus” is the top issue for Fall 2020 success. Also, not surprising, among students, faculty and staff there is general agreement that “time away from the screen” is really important (slightly more than 35% in all cohorts) and “flexibility in attendance at class or work” with 52% of students compared to 33% of faculty/staff commenting on the importance of flexibility.
Students clearly have far more financial concerns, consistent with the prior question. We will continue to look for ways to provide financial assistance to students.
Students also indicated an increased need for access to counseling resources. We are adding capacity to our Health Center to expand the counseling resources available for students.
Students also expressed a good deal of concern — 42% — about online classes and needing assistance. This past summer, the faculty participated in seminars providing intensive training for online instruction, and they are entering the fall with greater confidence in their ability to teach online effectively. We will be keeping a close watch on this and inviting continuing feedback on how to provide support for students learning online and to faculty teaching online.
With many children at home and also taking their K-12 classes online, many parents among our students, faculty and staff have concerns about how to support them while also attending to their own responsibilities. We hope to have some additional resources available for parents as we move into the fall semester.
We asked everyone to tell us about the impact of coronavirus:
We are very sad to see that among students, faculty and staff, 37 family members and loved ones have died of coronavirus, and 85 family members/loved ones have been ill with coronavirus. This is a time of so much suffering and sorrow, and our condolences go out to all who have lost loved ones in the pandemic. Director of Campus Ministry Sr. Ann Howard, SND, will announce a memorial service in early September.
We have had relatively few instances of coronavirus reported among students, faculty and staff directly. The survey results above indicate 14 instances of positive tests/recovery/current illness. This is consistent with the records maintained by Trinity Health Services. NO Covid-19 infections have occurred on campus or as a result of transmission within the Trinity campus community. We are watching this very closely.
We ask that all members of the campus community take the daily symptom checker and stay home if you have any symptoms. If you have been exposed to coronavirus off-campus, please stay home and self-quarantine for 14 days. We advise everyone but resident students to seek medical assistance including coronavirus tests from your own healthcare providers; resident students should let Health Services know immediately if you have symptoms or need a test because of possible exposure. For everyone, if you have tested positive for Covid-19 whether through your own healthcare provider or through Trinity, please report that to Health Services.
If someone on campus tests positive for coronavirus, we must report that to the D.C. Department of Health and DC DOH will do the official contact tracing. Additionally, we will conduct our own internal contact tracing to inform anyone who might have been exposed as quickly as possible.
We know these are stressful times and your worries about staying healthy and making ends meet financially are clear. Trinity’s executive team is committed to helping you in every way possible to have a successful Fall 2020 semester. Please let us know if you have concerns or ideas about how we can do better!
Presidential Election 2020
To take your mind off Covid-19, we had a final question about the presidential election: If the election were held today, which ticket would you vote for?
If you can, please vote! Voting is the most important responsibility of citizenship. We will be providing much more information about voter registration, voting by mail and election locations in the Washington region.
Thanks to all for participating in our first straw poll of the new academic year!