Grand Rapids Community College — After more than a year of mostly virtual courses and services, students can expect an increase in on-campus offerings for the fall 2021 semester.
“We’re going to see more classes and services return to campus. But we also have learned how remote versions of both can make an education more accessible for some students,” said GRCC Director of Communications David Murray.
“We want to remove any obstacles – our mission is to serve as many people as possible. GRCC will continue offering classes in all models, providing flexibility for students.”
About 80% of GRCC classes were offered as partly or entirely virtual during the 2020-2021 academic year. Starting this fall, a significant number of classes will be on campus or offered through a hybrid format, conducted in a way that provides safety for students and employees.
“Our community is emerging from the pandemic, and the community’s college will play a key role in helping people continue their education and West Michigan getting back to work,” GRCC President Bill Pink said in a press release.
“I hesitate to say we’ll be back to normal, because this virus and the racial and social issues we’ve faced as a nation highlighted the inequities in the previous normal,” said Pink. “We’re coming back with a new normal, with a greater on-campus presence but also more classes and support services offered in ways that make them more accessible to more students. We will be a better institution because of what we have learned from navigating this pandemic.”
Serving All Students
Murray said virtual classes have been popular with many students, especially those scheduling around home and work responsibilities and older students attending GRCC through the state’s Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect programs.
“Some students thrived in a remote setting, and others expressed a preference for a more traditional, in-person experience,” said Murray. “Our faculty did an amazing job translating courses to a virtual setting.”
GRCC also plans to increase the number of student services and activities offered on campus, with remote components and accommodations to connect students and community members. The pandemic cast light on the technology gap that exists for many students, and the college offered hundreds of loaner laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and other equipment. Those programs are planned to continue into the fall to ensure all students can access classes.
“Our Information Technology Department did a fantastic job seeing the need, obtaining the equipment and making it available,” said Murray. “Their work in closing the technology gap will continue to be vital.”
The college’s admissions and advising teams are currently working to serve an influx of older and returning students through Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect.
“We want to make sure those students are able to connect with a specialist to get the classes they want and the financial aid they are eligible for,” he said.
Murray said administrators are optimistic about moving forward. “We continue to work closely with our local and state health authorities and monitor developments in West Michigan and around the country. There is optimism as more people receive the vaccine. We are adamant about creating a safe environment for our students and employees,” he said.
“We will continue to follow guidelines, including wearing face coverings and social distancing. Our faculty and staff demonstrated how creative and innovative they can be if we need to make a quick transition again.”
GRCC also plans to continue waiving online course fees through the fall. The move will save students $16 per contact hour, or about $50 for a three-credit class offered online. Students are still responsible for tuition and other universal fees.