As they begin their college experiences in the midst of a pandemic and an uncertain semester, some incoming freshmen have made tough choices regarding their health, safety and attendance at the UofA.
Facing a semester of entirely, mostly or partly remote classes, some students who planned to attend the UofA have chosen alternative paths. Among them is Jewell Regan of Bryant, Arkansas, who got into the UofA and intended to enroll in the fall, but decided during the summer to defer her acceptance.
Regan will instead spend a year taking online courses at University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College. Regan said it was difficult to give up her first year at the UofA, and she is disappointed to miss out on opportunities like joining a sorority and having more available class options. However, she decided she wanted to do everything possible to protect her family from potential exposure to COVID-19.
“I was kind of nervous about going to any campus,” Regan said. “Because my family could be put in danger if I had decided to come back and visit them. You know, (staying home) was really the only option because I just didn’t want to risk hurting my family members.”
Regan said she plans to earn her associate degree from UAPTC within a year, using credits she earned in high school and those she will earn online. She hopes to then transfer to the UofA, where, with a scholarship program, she can pay the same tuition she paid at UAPTC.
Freshman Larissa Morley will attend the UofA this year, but said she still has anxiety surrounding her safety and ability to learn on campus this fall. Of Morley’s five fall courses, one will be remote and one hybrid, while the others are fully in-person.
Morley said she struggled with the choice between attending her in-person courses, where she fears catching the virus, or viewing recorded lectures at home. Morley decided to attend her classes because she struggled with asynchronous remote learning during high school. She said she does not feel safe on campus this fall, but has decided to sacrifice her sense of security for her grades.
“I’m definitely a lot more anxious than I probably would have been had it not been for the pandemic, Morley said. “I’m really looking forward to it but I’m also really, really scared of bringing something home.”
Morley said she would feel less worried about her courses if they were all changed to remote, synchronous instruction facilitated by Zoom and other resources.
Manager of University Communications John Thomas said by Aug. 7, 59% of the university’s more than 4,000 fall courses were set to be taught face-to-face, while 41% were slated for remote delivery. There was no information on hybrid courses. Of the 226 sections of courses specifically for freshmen—University Perspectives, Freshman Business Connections, and the First-Year Engineering Program—87% will be in-person or hybrid, and 13% will be remote.
Thomas said tuition and fees will not be prorated for remote courses because they “support crucial services that will continue to operate this fall and provide essential support for the campus and students.”
Although four of her five classes are remote, freshman Grace Li has developed a unique plan to spend time on campus this fall. Li, who originally planned to live in Hotz Honors Hall, instead chose to live at home with her parents in Fayetteville. She said she was concerned about the safety risks of living in close proximity to hundreds of people.
However, Li is keeping her dorm room and will use it during the day as a place to study and rest in between classes. Li said she is disappointed to miss out on the full experience of on-campus living, but thinks health must come before everything else.
“On a personal level, I’m disappointed that I’m not getting the social experience I’ve been looking forward to,” Li said. “But I do know that I’m actually in a pretty good situation and I’m grateful for that.”
Morley is also thankful to have the ability to live off-campus with her family this year, she said. She thinks she would have likely taken a gap year if she only had the option of living in the dorms.
“There’s a lot of people in those dorms, and they live two people per dorm usually, '' Morley said. “I would not feel comfortable at all living in the dorms.”
Regan, Morley and Li said they appreciated the difficulty of choosing whether to reopen the university, but they are not sure administrators made the right decision. They think bringing students back to campus and moving them into dorms, only to take some in-person classes and possibly be sent home later in the semester, seems ill-advised.
Regan and Morley said they think if administrators must make students return, they should have at least lowered tuition and/or fees as a gesture of good will.
“They have to know that it’s not going to be the same experience that they offered before,” Regan said. “So I feel like they should have just lowered it. It would have been easier on everybody, especially after a lot of families lost their jobs.”