I hope you and your loved ones are taking the necessary measures to stay safe and healthy during this challenging time. We know that the COVID-19 crisis has brought immense disruption to our campus and to the lives of our students.
In light of these disruptions, my Graduate Division team and I hosted a virtual Graduate Student Town Hall on May 5 to answer your questions and concerns. In addition to posting a recording of the event, I wanted to address three of the most frequently asked questions posed during the town hall.
Returning to Campus and Fall Instruction
I know one of the first questions that many graduate students are concerned about is, “When will campus reopen? When will things return to normal? When can I go back to my office or lab?”
The Chancellor has organized seven committees to address the different complexities of campus operations — research, instruction, student experience, student support, housing and dining, operations (including public events), finance, and communications — and is committed to having an answer for our campus community by June 15, 2020.
We understand that uncertainty is difficult. The best way to think about campus this fall is a phased movement toward allowing more people to be on campus. Phasing will be driven by our capacity and ability to have a robust testing regime in place and our ability to clean our facilities and protect our students and workforce. There won’t be an “on or off” switch with regards to campus operations, but rather a slow movement toward increasing student and workforce density in keeping with the requirements and expectations of public health authorities.
We do know that the fall will be hybrid. Some students will be taking classes remotely for a variety of reasons, either because they can’t get to campus or because they have some other preexisting condition why they are at risk. Some faculty will not be able to teach in person for the same reasons. The question is really, “What percentage of instruction will be remote in the fall?” and the Chancellor is working with her committees to address this and other questions related to campus operations.
Academic Accommodations Due to COVID-19
We received many questions related to normative time, exams, and other academic accommodations that fall, in part or in whole, under the Graduate Division’s purview.
Here is a short summary of some of the most recent changes:
The Graduate Division and Graduate Council have approved a blanket one-year extension of normative time (previously extended by one semester), allowed milestone exams, listed below, to be conducted via video conferencing software through Fall 2020, and supported a continuation of filing fee status from Spring 2020 to Fall 2020.
Please note that we are waiting for a decision from the UC Office of the President regarding a recommendation that Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition (NRST) waivers be extended by one year for international students. We will inform the campus community when UCOP announces their policy.
The following milestone exams can be conducted using Zoom or similar video conferencing software:
- Qualifying Exams
- Comprehensive exams in master’s degree programs,
- The defense of position or field papers required in certain programs, and
- Preliminary exams.
For additional information on the above accommodations and a complete list of academic updates related to graduate education, please visit the Graduate Division’s COVID-19 information hub.
CARES Act, Dream Act, and COVID-19 Relief Funds
Today is the last day for graduate students to apply for CARES Act or Dream Act COVID-19 relief funding. Our goal is to maximize all available sources of relief funding to award as many eligible students as possible, as quickly as possible. Our fellowships office created a helpful Tips and FAQ document to assist students with filing a FAFSA. If you are not eligible for either of these funds, other financial resources are available to you.
- CARES Act Funds
All graduate students should have received an email on May 3, 2020 announcing how to apply for the direct-to-student CARES Act funding the campus received, $4 million of which is allocated to graduate students. This funding will be given out as grants to graduate students most in need. If you are Title IV eligible, please complete a FAFSA by today, May 15, 2020 in order to be considered for this funding. If you have already filed a FAFSA in 2019-20 or 2020-21, you do not need to take additional action. Filing a FAFSA does not guarantee funding.
If you have questions, contact Cal Student Center by calling 510-664-9181, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time.
- Dream Act Funds
Students who are eligible for financial aid under the California Dream Act must file a 2020-21 California Dream Act Application (CADAA) if they did not fill out a CADAA for 2019-20. The campus is committed to providing students eligible for financial aid under the California Dream Act with equivalent funding from the Student Emergency Fund. The deadline to file a CADAA for funding consideration is today, May 15, 2020.
- Alternate Funding
If you do not meet the eligibility requirements to file for financial aid through the FAFSA or CADAA, you can still apply for assistance to help with additional expenses related to COVID-19. To apply, visit the UC Berkeley COVID-19 Student Relief Funds website. Students may also apply for an interest-free Short-Term Emergency Loan from UC Berkeley.
We hope that these academic accommodations and financial support programs help alleviate some of the anxiety related to the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. We recently conducted a graduate student survey and plan to share the results with you and other campus offices in the near future.
If you would like assistance navigating any of the Graduate Division’s resources, please sign up for a 15-minute virtual appointment with Graduate Student Life Director Larissa Charnsangavej: https://calendly.com/larissa-charn/graduate-life.
Stay tuned for future emails and updates.
Lisa García Bedolla
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division