ORONO — The University of Maine System has formed a Fall 2020 Safe Return Planning Committee to develop operational plans and protocols to safely welcome students, employees, and the public back to campus, according to an April 21 news release.
Continuing to comply with state health guidance, Maine’s public universities will be ready to return to face-to-face instruction if group gatherings and interaction are permissible and advisable by the end of August. The universities have also issued a set of assurances and are preparing to adapt to any circumstances to educate UMS students safely and at the highest levels of quality, the release said.
“Governor Mills and our public health partners are doing an outstanding job leading our state through the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy, in the release. “If they deem we are ready to begin a return to normalcy by summer’s end, Maine’s public universities will be ready with operational plans and action steps to safely bring students, employees, and the public back to our campuses.”
The Fall 2020 Safe Return Planning Committee includes planning leaders from the incident command teams for each campus and a representative from the University of Maine School of Law. The group held its first organizational meeting last week and is charged with assessing COVID-19 guidance and conditions and developing appropriate actions and protocols that can be implemented to provide for a safe return to campus as Maine begins its return to the new world we all will face in the coming weeks.
The presidents of Maine’s public universities will be discussing plans to welcome students back to campus safely this fall and taking questions from students and families in a special edition of the Presidential Tour streamed live at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, April 21 on the UMS Facebook Page and YouTube Channel.
Public University Assurances for Maine Students and Families
The public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 have created uncertainty for students, families, and employers that Maine’s public universities are addressing with a set of assurances for current and prospective learners.
“Maine students and their families can trust our close-to-home and affordable public universities to put their interests and academic success first,” said Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Robert Placido. “Higher education is always a good choice and we have established a number of academic and admissions assurances to help learners of all ages with their planning for the fall.”
The assurances include:
- A Plan for a Safe Return to Campus: The Fall 2020 Safe Return Planning Committee will prioritize student and community health and work in transparency and in close alignment with the public health guidance issued by state leaders, as well as UMS scientists.
Serving Students Where They Are: For as long as health concerns preclude learning in proximity, Maine’s public universities will continue to serve students with a mix of high-quality instructional delivery options and accommodations that promote learning and academic progress at a distance.
- COVID-19 Academic Actions for University and High School Students: The academic leaders of the University of Maine System have endorsed a set of actions and accommodations that address the acceptance of Pass/Fail grades and AP Exams and provide for understanding and mitigation of COVID-19 impacts on student GPA.
- Admissions Support For High School Seniors: The admissions and financial aid offices of Maine’s public universities are committed to adjusting practices, holding virtual events, and an holistic, whole-student approach to placement decisions to support high school seniors considering post-secondary education. This work will include coordination with Maine local schools and districts and the Maine Department of Education.
- Plans for a Historic Investment in Financial Aid: Maine’s public universities are planning to invest an historic $97 million in institutional gift aid in the upcoming academic year, a 6.5% increase in tuition waivers and scholarships over the current year that does not need to be repaid by students and families.
- Professional Judgment in Financial Aid Decisions: Changes to family circumstances due to the pandemic altering the ability to pay for college will be considered and financial aid awards adjusted within the limits of state and federal regulations and institutional resources.
- Fair and Timely Adjustments to Student Fees and Charges: Maine’s public universities commit to continue the practice of providing fair and timely adjustments and refunds of student charges and fees if circumstances prevent the universities from providing housing, meal plans, or other services.