Online classes will continue past this fall, chancellor says

Community college students should expect to see a new educational environment.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley told a group of student journalists today that the state is looking at what recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic looks like and said there is hope that officials can help students through the long-term situation with their academic goals intact.

Oakley said during a teleconference with student journalists that although every college will follow their individual county guidelines for reopening, there will be statewide protocols that will make academic experiences look very different.

“No one knows the full impact of what's going to happen to our communities, to our society, going forward,” he said.

But, he added, things will change.

“So what I'm telling our colleges is while, yes, our horizon is fall right now, we need to look beyond that horizon, we need to be prepared to be online in some form or fashion for probably the rest of your academic experience,” he said. “Not only community colleges, but a four year university if that's where you're going.”

Oakley said he is concerned that many students have been left out of the emergency aid provided by the federal CARES Act. In fact, the chancellor’s office, the board of governors and several community college districts filed a lawsuit against the federal secretary of education Tuesday, hoping to “stop the U.S. Department of Education from enforcing arbitrary eligibility restrictions on relief funds.”

Whichever way the decision goes, he said the chancellor’s office is working closely with community colleges to ensure that resources available reach those in need.

He also said that fees for California community colleges will remain the same in the fall so the state can ensure students have access to the college promise grants and programs. These programs waive fees for a majority of students and all low-income students will have their fees waived.

Meanwhile, CSU and UC systems have been pressured to hold down tuition, and the boards have made a commitment to do so as they set their own tuition based on the board’s guidance, according to Oakley.

As for financial aid, Executive Vice Chancellor for Educational Services Marty J. Alvarado said, “We are not anticipating substantial impact to financial aid for the conversion to online.

We are also in conversation with the Veterans Affairs offices to ensure that our veteran student population aren't negatively impacted by the full conversion to online.”

The chancellor’s office wants to ensure the best academic experience given the situation, Oakley said.

“We have convened a task force to help us look at ways in which we can safely reopen our campuses to the public. We will still continue to limit access to what you are normally used to — lots of activities that you are used to will look very different in the fall,” he said.

He added that California community college faculty are working hard to improve the online experience and Alvarado is working on providing additional educational training, tools and resources to help faculty with the long term transition.