Leave of Absence Deadline Passes Quietly for Fall Semester

By Molly Sproul || Website Manager

Last semester, we saw the college transition to remote learning. While some students thrived in a remote setting, others found it challenging to balance a full workload with home life. The college officially announced its decision to return to campus in the fall in an email on July 1, 2020. While the current climate of the state is monitored, students have a few options regarding their Fall 2020 semester: remain remote, live on campus, commute to campus, or request a leave of absence. 

The current deadline, reiterated in a recent email, to request a leave of absence and receive full tuition reimbursement, was July 20. This is one week before course registration begins —  when students can be assured they can take the classes they want or need. This is also 37 days before classes begin. Furthermore, only a portion of tuition, room, and meal plans will be reimbursed. Many other larger colleges, however, will be offering full tuition reimbursement through the first week of classes, including Harvard, Millersville, Penn, and Swarthmore 

There are many factors that contribute to these schools’ decisions, most notably the financial burden that many students face. This includes loans that may accrue interest or a shift in the deadlines for loan repayments. However, one important question must be answered: will the quality of instruction at F&M and its comparison to cost decrease if students or professors choose to be remote? 

According to the New York Times, courses requiring students to do some work in class and some online, are just as useful traditional classrooms. In this case, though, the online portion is a supplement to the in-person instruction, not a replacement. However, an exclusively online instruction causes issues for less proficient students. Research suggests that even when an online course is taught exactly the same way as an in-person version- using the same materials and assignments- students who are taught in-person perform better than those who enrolled online. In fact, online students are “more likely to drop out of college altogether.”  

Even if the financial burden is not an important factor, there is still the question of whether a student will receive the same value of the school without the campus experience.  Whether or not a student is online or on campus, the campus social climate will change with new social distancing restrictions and safety measures in place. Will it still be the same to hang out with friends on Hartman Green? Will there still be an activities fair to learn about what F&M has to offer? How will students learn laboratory techniques 6 feet away from the professor? 

The true “F&M experience” will be shifted, as many elements of being a student at a small liberal arts school will be nonexistent or restricted in the fall. These include the ability to form close bonds with professors and grab a cup of coffee, to meet up with classmates at the library to work on a project and to befriend hallmates and tour each other’s rooms. 

Most notably, however, international students currently comprise 17% of the student population at F&M. This number is fairly high, as F&M believes international students “add richness and texture to our campus community.” If new travel restrictions are put in place, students who planned on returning from outside the United States may have severely limited options. Furthermore, unless approved, students are not permitted to take courses at another institution to transfer the credit to F&M. 

All students were asked to complete this new “Fall Commitment” questionnaire by the end-of-day on Monday, July 20, 2020

Senior Molly Sproul is the Website Manager. Her email is msproul@fandm.edu.

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