Delta State University's response to Coronavirus

Coronavirus Update #10 – May 7, 2020:

TO: Delta State University
FROM: DSU President William N. LaForge
UPDATE #10: Coronavirus Update from President LaForge – May 7, 2020

As we come to the end of exam week, I once again thank you for your patience and resilience during the difficult days since spring break. I understand the challenges presented to you with respect to completing your semester’s work all on line. Thank you for being up to the task!  And I hope you made high grades because of your good work! I am certainly grateful to our faculty — your instructors — for all they did to guide and support you during this unique conclusion to the semester.

For our graduating seniors, I share your frustration in not being able to finish on campus and complete your path to degree with a public commencement ceremony. I salute you for completing your degree, and hope you will always remain loyal to Delta State. We will let you know as soon as we can regarding a rescheduled commencement exercise.

I take this opportunity to share some important information with you that I hope you will read very carefully. Many of the items below apply to a large majority of our students.

1. Guidelines/Process for Housing/Meals/Parking refunds

Last month, I shared with you the general guidelines we planned to use to provide refunds to eligible students for housing, meals, and parking expenses that are due because of your abbreviated time on campus.  I have listed below the final guidelines, process, and timeline.

Guidelines

  • Refunds will be effective as of March 16—the first day classes would have resumed if spring break had not been extended an extra week.
  • Refunds will first be applied to any outstanding balances that students owe to Delta State. The remainder of the refunds will be issued to eligible students as a direct payment through student accounts by direct deposit or checks.
  • Students are not eligible for refunds for the following reasons:
    • Students who officially withdrew from Delta State prior to March 16
    • Students whose housing or meal plans have been paid through institutional scholarships designated for housing or meal plans
    • Students who remained in campus housing

Process

  • We have completed the process of identifying students who are eligible for refunds for housing and meal plans and have calculated the amounts for their refunds.
  • We are in the process of identifying students who are eligible for parking permit refunds, and this process should be complete by the first of next week.

Timeline

  • We will start processing refunds on May 15.
  • Any balance that is owed by the student will be deducted from the refund amount.
  • Payments will be made via check or direct deposit, depending upon each student’s current refund method established with Student Business Services.

2. CARES Act Funds

You have likely heard about the federal funds available to college students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Education has provided funding as part of the “CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.” This Act provides funding to institutions for the purpose of providing emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted due to COVID-19 and are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet.

These grant funds do not need to be repaid, nor will they impact your eligibility for future federal financial aid (such as Pell Grant, federal student loans, or federal work study).  The funds will be paid directly to the student and will not be applied to an outstanding account balance. Payments will be made via check or direct deposit, depending upon each student’s current refund method established with Student Business Services.

Eligibility Requirements:
In order to qualify for assistance, students must meet several eligibility components. Listed below are the specific stipulations:

  • Students must have been enrolled in classes prior to March 13th.
  • Students enrolled in ONLY online classes/programs prior to March 13th are NOT eligible.
  • Students must be eligible for Title IV aid (federally funded aid such as Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Perkins Loan, and Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct Loans).

Allowable Expenses and Documentation:
Students may receive funding for certain incurred, unexpected expenses due to COVID-19.  The following list is not all inclusive, but examples may include: travel, living expenses (rent, utilities, and etc.), childcare, technology, loss of income, medical, food, and miscellaneous needs. Students must provide documentation to validate expense(s).

Process
Using Delta State’s course management system, Canvas, the university will notify students of the availability of CARES Act funds, the criteria for the funding, and the application process.

Timeline
We will distribute the application and guidelines next week. Students should check their Canvas and Delta State email accounts on a regular basis for additional information.

3. Summer School

As I announced previously, classes offered in Summer I and Summer II terms will be delivered exclusively online.

We highly encourage students to consider enrolling in summer school for a number of important reasons. First, taking one to two classes in the summer gives students an opportunity to focus on a limited number of courses and increase their learning capacity and opportunity for higher grades. Secondly, taking summer school courses allows students to chip away at their course requirements for their degree so that they will have lighter course loads during the regular school year. This applies to both undergraduate and graduate school courses. I encourage you to review the summer offerings on our summer school web page.

4. Turning in Textbooks

Last Friday, Barnes and Noble emailed shipping labels to students for you to use to mail your textbooks back to them. The labels were emailed to your student Okramail account. If you do not see the email in your inbox, check your spam folder. If you cannot locate the email in either location, contact the Bookstore at SM8031@bncollege.com.

5. Plans for the Fall 2020 semester

Like many of you, I am hopeful that we will return to face-to-face instruction for the Fall semester, and I look forward to welcoming all of our students back on campus this fall. Toward that end, we are working with IHL and various campus officials to make sure the campus will be safe when we re-open.

However, we recognize that there are many aspects of the pandemic that are out of our control, and so we are also planning a variety of instructional options for our students: face-to-face, online, and hybrid. These options will help us to meet our goal of providing our students the best educational experiences possible.

6. Plans for Spring Commencement

As I announced in a previous Campus Update, Spring commencement exercises have been indefinitely postponed. We certainly plan to honor all of our graduates in a proper manner, so stay tuned for information on the rescheduled commencement date, which will likely be set for late summer or early fall, or soon after Mississippi’s state of emergency declaration has ended.

Graduating seniors will graduate (and receive their diplomas) on schedule, if they meet their degree requirements. It’s just the ceremonial commencement exercise (previously scheduled for May 8) that will be rescheduled.

In the meantime, our Office of Communications and Marketing has created a “Spring 2020 Commencement Spotlight” on Facebook that features many of our graduating seniors. Check it out…

https://www.facebook.com/pg/deltastateuniversity/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10157380459769200&__tn__=-UC-R.

During this stressful time, I want you to know that Delta State is here to help and support you. Let us know how we can help.

I hope you and your families are safe and well as we continue our attempt to “flatten the curve” and end the COVID-19 pandemic.

I very much look forward to welcoming returning students back to campus for the fall session!