What will college in California look like in the fall amid the coronavirus crisis?

Leaders of California's UC, CSU and Community College systems talked with Newsmakers about plans for the fall semester amid the coronavirus crisis.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- This week, the University of California is expected to decide whether to continue online classes this fall.

On Eyewitness Newsmakers, the UC president indicated the system will likely join the state's public colleges to include online learning or a hybrid including remote learning in the wake of COVID-19.

President Janet Napolitano said, "I expect almost all of our campuses will be some sort of hybrid, where some courses will remain online. And others, particularly those that benefit from personal presence like certain laboratory classes, performing arts studio-type classes, those will be brought back to campus. It will be a mix."

The University of California has 10 campuses and nearly 300,000 students.

The California State University and the Community Colleges systems have already decided they will mostly remain online.

The CSUs have 23 campuses and nearly a half million students. Chancellor Timothy P. White said, "Doing it the way we're doing, we believe is the greatest access for the greatest amount of students and the greatest number of courses."

There are 115 California Community Colleges with more than 2 million students. It is the largest system of higher education in the country. They will remain online for most students, but training for professions like first responders will be on campus.

Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said, "By and large we're going to be online or in some remote platform fields."

The state's higher education leaders said they are making contingencies for the predicted second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. They don't plan to reverse course mid-semester and bring students back on campus.

Chancellor Oakley said, "We want to continue to build on this infrastructure, this online remote infrastructure to continue to be resilient so I don't see us turning back from the direction we're already heading."

Though the UCs haven't officially voted to stay online, President Napolitano said, "Should the state suddenly pivot, that doesn't change the virus, and the key factor is the safety of students, faculty and staff."

The CSU's White added, "There's something about the continuity as well. We've demonstrated across all three systems the ability to pivot quickly when circumstances change. Just look back to March."

An education poll found 20% of California's students are not confident they will return to school in the fall.

Some students are considering taking a year off if they don't have a full campus experience. But the leaders of the state's colleges and universities say: Don't take a gap year. They said there is merit to an online education in place of classes cancelled for COVID-19.

"Our students have to ask themselves what's the gap year for," asked Napolitano. "I would recommend that students stay enrolled and keep making progress toward their degrees."

White said, "Going into the virtual space for a semester or two is a small adaptation that's necessary to deal with the global pandemic."

Oakley urged students "To stay enrolled, to seek enrollment and to have that opportunity to really be in a position to do well in whatever economy transpires after this crisis is over."

The leaders also discussed the UC Regents voting to phase out the SAT and ACT as an entrance requirement and whether the other systems agree.
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