In the pre-pandemic world, Vivian Nguyen would commute to Temple University from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her family. But since her parents are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19, it won’t be the case this fall.
“I am for sure going to take a semester off,” said Nguyen, a senior human resource management major. “I didn’t like online classes, I also don’t like using Zoom.”
President Richard Englert announced on June 2 that Temple’s campus will reopen in the fall, offering a hybrid program of instruction which combines online and in-person classes. But with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, some students have decided to not return to campus at all, opting for entirely online schedules or taking a leave of absence.
Pepper Gardner, a senior early childhood-elementary education major, took a leave of absence last year for health-related reasons and planned to return this fall, but now is unsure if she should resume her studies. She’s certainly not coming back to campus, she said.
“You know, I am susceptible to [COVID-19] because of my health issues and I have a lot of friends who are compromised who are terrified to even go to the grocery store,” Gardner added.
For Kristen Pomroy, a junior history major, taking in-person classes is not an option because she lives with family members she could possibly infect when commuting to campus and back.
“With SEPTA, the regional rail and all of that, it sounds like a petri dish,” she said. “I live with a dad who is elderly and he has heart issues so he is in a higher risk category.”
Although from her experience attending an online high school she finds studying entirely online challenging, Pomroy opted for an online course load this fall.
“It’s hard to be self-motivating, but it can be a matter of life or death for some people,” Pomroy said.
Olivia Bishop, a sophomore psychology major from Eastchester, New York, plans to also take all her classes online and not return to Philadelphia because she doesn’t trust students will follow public health regulations.
“Anything short of making all classes online is insufficient because you really can’t control a population that big on campus,” Bishop said. “There is no way they are gonna be able to ensure that everyone will be adhering to those public health guidelines in every aspect of their life.”
While some students turn to online classes, others see a leave of absence as their only current solution.
Citizens of Brazil are currently suspended from entering the United States, making it impossible for Nathalia Rebouças da Silva, a junior international business administration major and an international student, to return to Philadelphia.
“I would have to take online classes if I wanted or not,” she said, adding she prefers to take a leave of absence.
Rebouças da Silva is also taking into consideration the economic impact her family suffered because of COVID-19, she said.
As a response to the coronavirus, the Brazilian government reduced tuition, Rebouças da Silva said. The reduction was determined to be 30 to 50 percent for the duration of the pandemic, Jornal Contábil Rede reported.
“I haven’t seen anything like that from Temple,” she said. “I understand because universities are business but at the same time if they want to keep their clients, like students, they have to help, too.”
The cost of tuition was frozen for the 2020-21 academic year, but not reduced, The Temple News reported.
International students also pay out-of-state tuition, which is not cheap, Rebouças da Silva added.
“For right now I am decided, even when, for example, the borders are gonna open,” Rebouças de Silva said. “I have been talking to my advisor, and she said that I have until September to think.”
Students have until the last day of add/drop period, which in the fall is September 8, to apply for a leave of absence via TUPortal, wrote Mary Beth Flynn, assistant director of academic advising for the Klein College of Media and Communication, in an email to The Temple News. Any changes to fall-semester schedules are due that day.
Students are granted up to two semesters of leave of absence. After that they would either have to take online classes or request to re-enroll once they are able to resume their studies, Flynn added.
“It feels like I’m taking a loss either way,” Gardner said.