What does “getting back to normal” mean?

With two weeks remaining in the spring semester, Illinois State University would typically be engaged in a few predominant activities: preparing for final exams and commencement celebrations; finalizing summer school schedules; and, making the campus look pristine to welcome our incoming fall class of freshman, transfer, and returning students.

Instead, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down, and with it, Illinois State’s most cherished traditions. Graduating students will participate in a virtual commencement ceremony in May, awaiting a formal event in December. Summer classes will be held outside the classroom through alternative teaching methods. Our award-winning Preview orientation program will be held online, and campus visits will be virtual.

We have all been coping with coronavirus for several weeks, we are all weary of business as unusual; and, we are still more than a bit anxious about what the future holds. But we are ready to move forward, even though moving forward will certainly arrive in stages, with new procedures and precautions, and a more focused priority on safety and security.

For Illinois State, that would likely mean a fall semester where classes are held in classrooms, where students interact in the residence halls, off-campus apartments, Milner Library, the Student Fitness Center, and the Bone Student Center, and where we all look forward to gathering at academic, athletic, and social events, while enjoying the fall beauty of the Illinois State Quad.

Like most of you, I want nothing more than for that reality to come to fruition, even though a “return to normal” will come with caveats designed to keep our campus even cleaner, safer, and more secure.

Each day, I review federal, state, and local health information looking for guidance that will allow the University to officially announce a fall reopening. I speak with our faculty and staff about the myriad of tasks required to determine when we can open our doors to you. Over the next month, we will continue making plans for a safe return of students, faculty, and staff in the fall while also investing time in developing contingency plans should a return to campus in the fall not be realistic.

Illinois State will be prepared for you academically, and the University will be responsive financially. Programs such as the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund and the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities Act will provide significant financial assistance to students and their families—often putting money directly into the pockets of students. In fact, the University is quickly working to develop a process to distribute funds as soon as they become available to students.

Soon you will be receiving a partial refund of mandatory student fees for the spring 2020 semester. The refund will be $12 per credit hour which will be applied to your student account. A student enrolled for 15 credit hours in the spring will receive $180. For students who have a parking permit, a parking refund for the period of March 16 through May 15 also will be applied to your student account. The amount of the refund will depend upon the type of permit purchased. If you have a credit balance after the adjustments are made to your account, it will be automatically refunded to you.

You should also know that because of Illinois State’s strength and stability, the University will not be seeking a tuition, room, or board increase for 2020-2021. Illinois State is the third largest public university in Illinois, but our costs remain in the lower tier of state public universities.

I imagine the coronavirus has caused you financial strain—it has done the same to Illinois State in the tens-of-millions of dollars. We are working every day on planning scenarios to address these financial issues, but our main focus is on you – continuing to provide a quality education at an affordable price in a safe environment.

I will be communicating further fall 2020 semester information to you in the coming weeks. As you await that announcement, please stay safe, be mindful of the well-being of your loved ones, and join me in looking forward to continuing the Illinois State University experience.