Hannah Berger, TVCC student government president, says the campus has returned to normal, with masks. (The Enterprise/Liliana Frankel)
ONTARIO – Students and administrators at Treasure Valley Community College say that despite the fatigue that comes with the pandemic and the precautions it necessitates, circumstances are almost back to normal on campus.
“TVCC has done a great job of keeping the same quality of learning we had before,” said Hannah Berger, Associated Student Government president. “It’s pretty much the same – we just have a mask on our face.”
Eddie Alves, vice president of academic affairs, shared that the numbers of in-person versus online classes have bounced back from last year’s completely virtual format to something close to the norm for TVCC – one-third online and two-thirds in-person or hybrid.
“Our students were clear about wanting ‘live’ classes, so we worked hard to provide that,” he said.
Although TVCC met the goal of offering live classes for its students, academic life is not without its changes. Classes are capped now to allow for social distancing within the classroom space, and smaller sizes mean more sections per class.
“It was more expensive to offer classes in this way,” said Abby Lee, public information director, explaining that the college had incurred significant costs by paying professors for the extra hours. “Without the additional federal funds that came in to support higher education, it would have been devastating for TVCC.”
Another financial challenge for TVCC during the pandemic has been declining enrollment. The college’s enrollment decreased 3% from last spring to now, leaving it with less funds from tuition and lower funding from the state, which bases its funding on enrollment numbers.
But with three sources of pandemic aid last year, and a new infusion scheduled for the coming months, Lee said that TVCC is now likely to maintain a strong financial position for at least the next two years.
President Dana Young said that the college’s finances would be more certain by the end of the state legislative session in June. Gov. Kate Brown has said she plans to support community colleges at the requested level of $702 million.
“We are the first responders in these economic times for retraining people, for getting people back in the workforce, and she recognizes that,” Young said.
As for the general feeling on campus, Lee and Young described optimism despite the frustrations of continuing Covid restrictions.
“It’s been a year and we’re coming to the spring,” said Young. “(Students) want to take the masks off, but we can’t let them do that. We will continue to follow all the guidelines from the state so we can keep our doors open.”
Young expressed pride in TVCC for being one of few community colleges in Oregon that didn’t close this year. Indeed, the college has taken steps not only to continue providing in-person classes, but also to preserve the quality of on-campus social life.
Berger said that student government has been putting on a variety of events, from “grab and gos” where students collect do-it-yourself activities to complete with friends to a recent drive-in movie night that was “the first big event of the year.”
Kristine Needs, the director of residence life and student conduct, added that in partnership with Student Activities, her program has sponsored “Treat Your Suite,” a do-it-yourself activity similar to the “grab and gos” that was designed to be enjoyed by suitemates living as part of the same Covid pod.
Because TVCC has sufficiently large student housing, double suites with four people were allowed this year. There are restrictions – guests aren’t allowed inside, for instance – but they seem to be working. There has only been one quarantine this trimester so far.
Berger said that as a sophomore, she has fond memories of her pre-Covid classes from freshman year, which featured off-campus travel and hands-on components. Her major, ranch management, now often relies on diverse learning experiences being brought into the classrooms, rather than traveling into the field.
For students struggling with the new formats or restrictions of their classes, or simply getting lost in the material, almost every professor now offers virtual and in-person office hours. There are also virtual versions of the math and writing labs where students can get help.
Alves said that’s a positive change because of how it improves access for students who may have trouble getting to campus, either because of a lack of transportation at home, a family member who’s extra vulnerable to Covid, or extenuating circumstances like childcare responsibilities.
“We expect this to continue even after COVID is no longer an issue,” he said.
News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.
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