KU releases fall class schedule ahead of unprecedented semester; no tuition discount for online-only classes

photo by: Associated Press

Students cross Jayhawk Boulevard in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Just three weeks before fall semester classes are set to begin, the University of Kansas on Monday released a revamped course schedule that includes in-person, hybrid, and entirely online courses as the university continues to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An email from the KU Registrar’s office to students Monday morning informed them that a two-week reconfiguration of the university’s entire course schedule had finished, and their new schedules were ready to view — and likely had changed.

KU did not publicize data Monday about how many courses ultimately switched from an in-person format. However, Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said last week that the breakdown would likely be around 30% for each instruction mode.

“Despite these rapidly changing circumstances, KU remains as committed as ever to providing a world-class education for our students,” Monday’s message to students said. “Whether remotely or in a physically distanced campus environment, you’ll engage with other students and learn from faculty leading in their disciplines.”

Inevitably, the changes in course layout will result in some students having schedules in the fall with nearly all or the entirety of their courses taking place online. Monday’s message encouraged students in that situation to reach out to their departments or academic advisers to see if any solutions were possible.

If not, though, those students will not see any discounted tuition rates for those online courses. Carey Gillam, the parent of a KU student, told the Journal-World that her student’s schedule, as an incoming freshman, initially had only 1 hour and 45 minutes of on-campus instruction each week — out of 16 credit hours. That was eventually changed to four hours of in-person classes, but Gillam said the fact remains that parents and students are being asked to pay full tuition for a “reduced educational experience.”

When Gillam inquired about tuition discounts, KU Admissions Director Lisa Pinamonti Kress told her that KU wouldn’t discount tuition for online classes that are joined with a schedule of in-person and hybrid courses.

“KU faculty have been working hard to create dynamic courses in each course delivery mode,” Kress said in an email, provided to the newspaper.

When Gillam inquired further about why tuition wasn’t being discounted for classes she described as “clearly of far less value,” Kress was more direct.

“If it doesn’t work for you or your son, he can decide to not attend KU and either take a gap year or take classes elsewhere,” she wrote. “I wish you the best in your decision.”

In a separate message to KU faculty and staff, Matt Melvin, KU’s vice provost for enrollment, and Nick Stevens, the chief data officer for the university’s analytics department, said revamping the course schedule was “a difficult task with no perfect solution.”

“Faculty and students will have classes scheduled in buildings/rooms they have never used before,” their message said. “We ask for your patience, support and leadership in helping communicate to instructors and students the need for adjusting courses and classrooms.”

In some circumstances, instructors will also be expected to communicate to students when they are and aren’t expected to show up to physical classes — for example, in cohort classes that are scheduled to meet every other week, Melvin and Stevens said.

For students who do end up with a schedule of mostly online classes and were planning to live in on-campus housing — but now may be questioning whether it’s worth it due to a lack of in-person class time — there are some options available.

In a July 27 roundtable discussion posted to the YouTube page for KU’s student affairs department, university housing director Sarah Waters said students are able to cancel their housing contracts through the first day of classes on Aug. 24 for a $750 fee. However, there is an appeal process available for those students who received a schedule with “most” of their classes online, she said.

If a student and their family decides a move to Lawrence isn’t worth it after getting their fall schedule, Waters said they can file an appeal, which housing staff will review, and if it is determined that the student does have most of their classes online-only, Waters said KU housing would grant the contract cancellation without the $750 penalty.

In the same discussion, Bichelmeyer said if that situation does arise for a student, they should reach out to their academic advisers to see if adjustments are available before trying to cancel their housing contracts.

KU’s physical semester will run from Aug. 24 until right before the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 26. After that students will complete a remote study week and take finals online from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. That decision was announced in mid-June with the hope of slowing the spread of COVID-19 during the fall months when viruses typically spread more rapidly.

Contact Conner Mitchell

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