Walsh University is preparing to welcome back students to campus this fall – even if it still must offer its classes online.
President Tim Collins said Thursday that Walsh has created a campuswide task force to develop recommendations on how the North Canton campus can provide a full residential life experience while complying with government guidelines intended to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Aultman and AultCare officials also have offered to review the university’s plans to ensure they meet safety standards, he said.
“For us, being all online (for instruction) is not mutually exclusive of having residential life,” he said.
Collins, who said Walsh is planning for both online and in-person instruction, said the decision to provide on-campus housing this fall is based on fulfilling Walsh’s mission to make college accessible with what’s currently known about the virus – noting that the government continues to allow residents to live in apartment complexes – and the desires of families and students. He said deposits for on-campus housing are on pace compared to last year even though overall student commitments continue to lag behind pre-coronavirus pandemic projections.
“It’s all premised on this idea that we have to continue our mission of education,” Collins said. “This country cannot stop doing education.”
Walsh, with an undergraduate enrollment of roughly 2,000 students, had just under 1,000 students living on campus this past academic year.
The university announced its on-campus plans two days after California State University, the nation’s largest four-year public university system, said that it is keeping its 23 campuses closed and classes would remain online due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a running tally compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education, most of the colleges and universities nationwide that have announced their plans for the fall are expecting to hold in-person classes. The database includes 11 Ohio universities – four public and seven private – and each of them are planning for students to return to campus. The list includes the University of Mount Union, whose goal is to resume face-to-face instruction and residential operations this fall.
Ohio universities have been offering online or remote instruction since March due to the state’s restrictions on large gatherings. While Gov. Mike DeWine has announced the reopening of various business sectors, he has not lifted the gathering limitations nor discussed reopening colleges for the fall.
Walsh also announced Thursday that it will offer new financial incentives, operate under a restructured academic calendar, launch 10 new majors and discontinue six existing majors this fall.
To offer families some financial stability, Collins said Walsh is providing free on-campus housing for full-time freshmen and transfer students for the first eight weeks. It also is expanding its previously announced two-year tuition freeze to all sophomores, juniors and seniors beginning with the 2020-21 academic year.
“Students now are in a different financial place than they were,” Collins said.
Shorter academic terms
Instead of the traditional 15-week semester, Walsh this fall will reduce its academic terms to eight weeks.
Collins said the move gives students more flexibility with their schedules. Instead of taking five courses simultaneously for 15 weeks, students can take three courses for the first eight-week term and two courses during the second eight-week term, he said as an example.
He said the number of instruction hours will remain the same, but the frequency of how often the class meets a week or the length of a single class will change to meet the condensed academic term.
“When it’s the 31st of December, you still will have the same number of credits,” he said.
Collins said the new structure will allow students to take a lighter courseload when they may be participating in athletics, an internship or another learning experience. It also will help students seeking to transfer to Walsh, he said.
“Most transfer students would have to wait until January (when a new semester begins),” Collins said. “But at Walsh, seven weeks later, you can drop back in and keep it going.”
Collins said Walsh originally planned to roll out the restructured academic calendar in fall 2021, but the pandemic accelerated the timeline so students, now challenged with uncertainty, had more options.
Students who take all six terms in a year could graduate in less than three years.
Walsh’s 10 new majors are public health, actuarial science, data analytics, game development, information technology, web design, supply chain management, eSports and gaming management, professional sales and human resources management.
Collins said the new academic offerings come after a review that was conducted over the past three years, and are not in response to the pandemic.
He said the six majors that will be phased out are due to low enrollment and employment trends.
The discontinued majors are art history, music, math, English, international relations and history. Current students still will be able to complete their major, and the subjects will be available as minors and as part of Walsh’s general education curriculum.
“Those majors are what was built in 1942,” Collins said. “We’re in a completely different world now.”
Collins said no immediate personnel changes are being made, but adjustments will be made over time as some employees may take on new roles.