Get Schooled: Colleges and Universities Offer Game-Changing Resources

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HECC and Oregon’s colleges and universities provide services to keep college students going strong

OREGON – Students and families should know that Oregon’s colleges and universities are committed to being as flexible as possible to support students and families impacted by the pandemic.   

On April 27, Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) shared a joint message of assurance to students and families from the associations representing  Oregon Community College Association representing Oregon’s 17 community colleges; the Oregon Council of Presidents representing Oregon’s eight public universities; and the Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities representing 15 Oregon private non-profit colleges and universities. This includes specific commitments the colleges and universities have made to help current and future students who are impacted by COVID-19 navigate the crisis, achieve their goals, and plan for their future. 

The message addresses questions that current college students, or rising freshmen, may have, such as: Will disruptions to my schooling or grading policy in spring 2020 affect my college plans? Will my admission or scholarship be impacted? Is there help for me if my financial situation has changed due to the pandemic? Colleges and universities have committed to working to meet individual student needs in the wake of COVID-19 to ensure that they continue to have the ability to pursue their college goals.

Supporting Student Success with Remote Learning

As Oregon colleges and universities have shifted the majority of their coursework to remote learning for this academic term, the transformation has added challenges, but also opportunities for Oregon students. Here are just a few of many amazing recent efforts across Oregon’s college campuses to help students continue and succeed.

Students in the Oregon Tech engineering program are using the campus’s 3D printers at their homes to create face shields for medical workers and valves for ventilators. For high school students wishing to join this innovative campus community, both Klamath Community College and Oregon Tech are offering online college courses to high school students.

The annual ¡Conéctate! Conference hosted by Eastern Oregon University went virtual this year, with speakers presenting their stories and participants engaging in Zoom work sessions to discuss the needs and issues currently impacting Latinx communities in rural Oregon.

Taking advantage of both Klamath Community College and Oregon Tech’s online-only spring term courses, many high school students across Klamath County are capitalizing on the new flexible course structure.

At Eastern Oregon University, the Mountaineer Success Team (MST) has expanded its reach to continue serving students from a distance to guide students through academic or personal obstacles. Since the program began in spring 2019, it has yielded increased retention rates among students involved.  

Chemeketa Community College in Salem is supporting students during the pandemic by distributing over 600 free laptops to students in need, mailing library textbooks to students’ home free of charge, and expanding wifi to their parking lots so students without internet access at home can complete school work safely from their cars. 

Mount Hood Community College has created an emergency fund to support students in need of financial assistance.

Clackamas Community College has been going above and beyond to ensure English Language Learners can access the courses they need complete their Associates Degree. Within two weeks prior to their 2020 spring term, the ELL faculty called each interested student, provided course advice, completed registration, placing 156 students, about 50% of the students typically expected for the spring term, into online courses.

Southern Oregon University’s (SOU) Tutoring Center is conducting sessions via Zoom meetings and established a virtual group study program. SOU also launched a mobile app for students to access campus services, connect with professors and find study buddies for their classes.

Oregon State University (OSU) hosted a virtual science pub talk about the science behind running shoes and their impacts on performance and running biomechanics.  Associate professor of kinesiology and director of the FORCE (Functional Orthopedic Research Center of Excellence) Lab at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend presented her research on how various types of running shoes affect the legs, knees and ankles of runners.

E-sports are being embraced by the University of Oregon Department of Physical Education and Recreation as a way to offer competitive sport options to students at a distance.  Students, staff and faculty can all play in e-sports league tournaments, as well as participate in a weekly online trivia game as part of the new virtual intramural program.

Young children enrolled in the Pacific University Early Learning Community program are continuing with their hands on education activities at home, thanks to an extensive library of tools and materials that have been cultivated by teachers in the program. Video lessons, science experiment guides and personalized messages from teachers to students create a complete curriculum for students to engage with at a distance.

At Willamette University, students are preparing to transition into the workplace by practicing mock interviews through Zoom workshops with career management staff.  While the students are hard at work from home, empty computer labs are busy calculating protein structures to help with research into COVID-19 treatments. This donation of computing power to the [email protected] program allows complex simulations to be completed across multiple smaller systems instead of with a dedicated supercomputer.

Many colleges and universities have continued to provide counseling services online. Portland Community College has shifted to virtual counseling and expanded their services during this challenging time The Eastern Oregon University Counseling Center staffs the only two certified psychologists in its county. In fact, during this challenging time, they decided to share their resources with the wider Oregon community, so their YouTube videos Curiosity over judgement and Dealing with anxiety are accessible to all.

Going Standardized Test-Optional 

All Oregon’s seven public universities and Oregon Health & Science University announced in March that they will no longer require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission, starting fall 2021.

Going forward, undergraduate students applying to any of Oregon’s public universities will have the option—rather than the requirement—of submitting standardized test scores with their application for admission. Across the nation, more than 1,000 four-year universities and colleges have either abandoned standardized testing altogether or now provide students the option to take such tests. These changes follow decades of research regarding the contribution of standardized admissions tests in accurately predicting a student’s academic success once in college.

“Standardized tests add very little to our ability to predict an individual student’s success at a university or college,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University. He added, “In light of the uncertainty occurring in Oregon and globally around COVID-19, we hope Oregon universities’ decision to allow students to choose to not provide standardized tests results relieves some of the stress being felt by learners and their families during these very challenging times.”

Flexibility with Deadlines

Many Oregon colleges and universities are offering a high degree of flexibility with deadlines for the receipt of official transcripts, confirmation of admission offers, and other requirements to ensure that students aren’t disadvantaged due to the effects of COVID-19.

For example, some have also postponed the traditional May 1 acceptance deadline to June 1. The University of Oregon recently extended their acceptance deadline to September 1, giving prospective students extra time to plan amid the current global pandemic.  If students have admissions and deadline-related questions, they are encouraged to reach out directly to the college or university.

About Author

Endi Hartigan is the Communications Director for the State of Oregon's Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC). The HECC envisions a future in which all Oregonians—and especially those whom our systems have underserved and marginalized—benefit from the transformational power of high-quality postsecondary education and training.

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