FYE to FYP: For Pandemic Fall, Colorado College readies a new First Year Program

Also, some colleges and universities have new tuition policies for the coming semester

Good morning, and happy Wednesday. On this pre-pandemic date three years ago, local residents were enjoying the final day of the week-long El Paso County Fair. This year, organizers hosted a modified event, which only included the 4-H exhibits and attractions. 

Today, we talk to Aaron Stoller, who directs academic initiatives, about a new First-Year Program during Blocks 1 and 2, and we look at how higher-ed institutions are responding to cries for lower tuition and spring semester refunds. 

➡️ ICYMI: Yesterday, we reported on the cancellation of Division III sports at Colorado College and the NCAA guidelines for sports returning in the fall.

Photo courtesy of the Journalism Institute at Colorado College Facebook page.

‘A Moving Target’: CC 100 and 120 courses welcome new first-year students, brace for unknowns of Pandemic Fall

Even without COVID-19 disruptions, Blocks 1 and 2 for incoming first-year students would have looked a little different. Last week, The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project spoke with Director of Academic Programs Aaron Stoller about the new First Year Program, its accompanying mentor resources, and the effects of the pandemic on behind-the-scenes planning.

👩🏻‍🏫 What first-years can expect from their first two blocks at CC 

Starting this year, Colorado College is replacing its traditional First Year Experience, known as FYE, with the new (🥁drumroll, please) First Year Program, abbreviated to FYP.

Like its recently retired predecessor, the FYP will take place over the course of a first-year’s inaugural two blocks at CC. The first block will be a CC100 course, a “Critical Inquiry Seminar” designed to help students understand the nature of the liberal arts and different disciplines. CC100 courses are organized around nine thematic clusters, which will give courses with related topics the opportunity to offer occasional convergence classes. The second block will be a first-year writing seminar, focused on critical writing and its role in the production of knowledge. 

First-year students will stick with the same group of students over the course of the two blocks, though Stoller says “by happenstance,” there will be fewer faculty who teach both CC100 and CC120 for the same student cohort.

“I’m crazy excited about the new 100 and 120, and about the new Gen Ed,” Stoller says in reference to a new set of general education requirements. “I think it’s going to end up being a real signature for the college and a massive benefit to incoming students.”

👫 How first-year students can access peer support this fall 

Student mentors will now take on the title of FYP mentors and will support first-year students during the entire 2020-21 academic year. Mentors are expected to spend five to 10 hours per block engaging with their mentees and will take an adjunct, “Critical Approaches to the Liberal Arts,” during the fall semester. 

“We have increasingly tried to place emphasis on the students really being a mentor for the duration of the academic year,” Stoller says. 

In past years, mentors may have organized activities such as peer review sessions for final papers, but those duties will now fall to Writing Center Fellows. Each course has a designated fellow trained in writing pedagogies who will support group writing needs for the class. However, meeting in-person at the Writing Center or Quantitative Reasoning Center might be a thing of the past. During distance learning this spring, the Writing Center and QRC offered remote sessions, and Stoller says they are exploring ways to support students digitally this fall. 

💻 Behind-the-scenes of the planning for the new FYP program 

The preparations for this year’s FYP started “way before any of this,” Stoller says. Around Block 2 of last year, faculty began the early stages of planning who might offer CC100 or 120 courses.

First-year students will formally find out their assigned FYP courses Aug. 1. But with disruptions from the pandemic, the specifics of their assignments, including class formats, are “a moving target.” The college prioritizes giving faculty and students the autonomy to make decisions for their own health, so if a lot of students needed to move into an online class, enrollment might change a bit, Stoller says. 

“Unlike a normal year, students may experience some movement in their class, even up until the day classes start,” Stoller says. “And that’s simply because we have to be flexible in this environment.”

Students are calling for lower tuition this fall. Some institutions have responded with creative solutions, while others still face lawsuits from spring closures

The pandemic has pushed the global economy into its second recession in 12 years, leaving unemployment rates high and many college students and their families in the lurch. In a recent survey of more than 10,000 college students, 56% said they could no longer afford their tuition because of the pandemic’s effect on their finances.

As of June 23, more than 60 higher-ed institutions have been sued by students for tuition refunds because of COVID-19 closures this spring. In June, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill providing immunity to state colleges and universities for COVID-19-related legal claims related to closures during this past spring semester. “Colleges and universities are protected as long as their decisions were made to protect the public health, safety, or welfare in response to the coronavirus pandemic and they offered remote learning options for enrolled students,” reported The News & Observer. (North Carolina is not the only state where college presidents are asking for protections). Now, as campuses prepare to bring students back to campus, some institutions are also writing addendums into their residence-life contracts, saying that if COVID-19 closes campuses early, students won’t receive refunds.

Other colleges and universities are adjusting their tuition and fees for the 2020-21 school year in the following ways:

Is Colorado College increasing tuition or discounting tuition? “There are different ways to think about this," the college says on its website. Tuition for full-time students is $60,390 this year, so full-time students will be paying roughly 5% more than they did in 2019-20, when the rate was $57,612. The college has not determined the fees for a student who only enrolls for a portion of the upcoming academic year. Students can take up to 10 classes this year for the full fee instead of the eight offered last year, which the college says “provides a substantial per-block discount on tuition.” On a normal eight-block year, that $60,390 would break down to a per-block tuition cost of $7,548.75. Instead, the rate this year is $6,039 per block. Colorado College does not offer tuition, housing, or meal plan refunds to students who take only one block off.

About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project

The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is a student-faculty collaboration by Colorado College student journalists Miriam Brown and Arielle Gordon, Journalism Institute Director Steven Hayward, Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism Corey Hutchins, and Assistant Professor of English Najnin Islam. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear from time to time, as will infographics by Colorado College students Rana Abdu, Aleesa Chua, Sara Dixon, Jia Mei, and Lindsey Smith.

The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community. 

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