TORRINGTON – The number of students applying to be Lancers next year is down in response to ongoing uncertainties amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Roger Humphrey, vice president for student services at Eastern Wyoming College, told the Board of Trustees on Tuesday college applications for the fall 2020 semester were “right on pace” with previous years up to mid-March. But numbers declined as more schools and businesses around the country shuttered their doors and social-distancing became the new normal.
“We’re down about 72 applications,” Humphrey reported. “A lot of places are struggling with admissions right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty for high school kids.”
EWC has opened its new online application system, at ewc.wy.edu/admissions/application-for-admission/, he said. Getting that system live has consumed months of work by staff in Humphrey’s office, making it easier for potential students to complete the first step in the process of attending EWC.
“The major thing we’ve really been working on is the implementation of the online applications,” Humphrey said. “We have that ready to go. The interface with (the college records system) is complete.”
Getting that system live hasn’t been without challenges, he said. Humphrey’s office is still working to provide a portal for students to pay housing deposits for the college’s residence halls online.
“Typically, that’s been paid when students arrive on campus,” he said. “We hope to have that working soon.”
The next step in the process of becoming a Lancer student or of returning for subsequent semesters is registration, Humphrey said. Starting in May and running through July or possibly into August, the college will host all registrations and academic counseling in the virtual world.
In other business, trustees:
• Approved on first reading adjustments to board policy governing animals or pets on campus.
Following requirements of the federal Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, if approved, the policy would allow certain individuals to have animals in dormitories, classrooms and “all campus grounds where members of the public and participants in services, programs or activities are allowed to go.”
The policy would also permit animals accompanying visitors, employees or students on a short-term basis and those used in an instructional capacity in conjunction with ag or vet tech programs. It also specifically addresses the presence of service animals assisting people with disabilities.
EWC President Lesley Travers supported the policy, noting numerous research reports stating support animals can greatly benefit students.
“Students do better with a friend,” she said. “Sometimes that’s a dog, a turtle, a cat, or whatever.”
Trustee Mike Varney questioned the policy, asking Travers if she was aware of any problems or issues at other institutions that allow animals in dorms and other campus facilities.
“I’m not hearing much,” Travers said. “Obviously, we’re going to have pets with issues in their dorm rooms.”
Keith Jarvis, director of the physical plant services at EWC, said there weren’t any issues with animals reported during the current academic year. But there have been problems, including damage to carpets, in the past.
“In the past we had a dog with issues and we had to re-carpet the room, because of the smell,” Jarvis said. “Actually, it was two rooms; different rooms but the same animal. The student was charged for that.”
The college routinely charges a deposit, much like other rental properties, he said. All students pay a flat fee designed to cover normal wear and tear on campus residential property.
“But if the damage is beyond that original deposit, we can place a financial hold, just like with anybody who owes you money,” Jarvis said. “We had no problems with that student paying the bill.”
• Approved amendments to the college’s class attendance policy, changing which college administrative office would receive notification if students aren’t attending class.
The policy states that notification would be made to the vice president for student services. In practice, notifications are sent to the office of the college registrar. The changes codify where notifications would go, Humphrey said.
“We’ve got a thumbs up from the academic side to move forward with this,” he said. “It’s more of an editorial change in this policy instead of a content change.”
The triggers for notification remain the same: Absences exceeding 20% of scheduled class sessions in one semester, or a student has not been in attendance for six consecutive class hours.
Responding to a question from trustee John Patrick, Humphrey estimated the average student attends about nine class hours in a given week.
“I was trying to collate that with my experiences,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want us to be draconian on this, and we’re not.”
The policy is designed to give instructors the option to begin the process of withdrawing a student from a class, but does not mandate they do so, Heidi Edmunds, vice president for academic services, told the board.
Instructors may, at their discretion, “work with students trying to get their grades up, to keep them eligible for residence halls, financial aid,” she said.
The policy also covers online classes, Edmunds said. Students enrolled online have to actively participate and complete assignments to qualify for being in attendance.
“Students attending class but not completing the coursework would qualify for withdrawal,” she said. Online students “can’t just be logging in to online classes. Students who are just hanging around and not completing the coursework could be withdrawn as well.”
• Approved on first reading a change in board policy governing withdrawing students from classes against their will.
Board Policy 5.3 states the VP for student services may, at their discretion, withdraw an individual from all classes in the event of “abandonment of classes, a delinquent financial account, violation of the Student Code of Conduct, death or other extenuating circumstances.”
It further notes withdrawal does not release students from any financial obligations.