COVID-19 Related Student FAQs
This page was last updated on 07/15/2020
Below is a set of frequently asked questions regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on Pacifica and our student body. The FAQs contain information on the following (click to review FAQs for that section):
- Status of the campuses and plans for fall 2020 quarter and beyond
- Remote learning details and support
- Student support and hardship resources
- Financial and accreditation information and resources
- Response to issues of equity and systemic racism
As the pandemic continues, this information may change at any time and will be updated periodically to reflect the most current information and resources regarding the effects of COVID-19 on Pacifica. Pacifica management will continue to consult state and local health authorities, as well as accreditation agencies and members of our community, on an ongoing basis to assess what measures to implement to ensure the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty moving forward.
Please also note the below reflects responses at the institutional level. Students should check with your academic programs for any program-specific details and resources.
We continue to value feedback of students throughout this time. To submit feedback or questions not addressed here or through one of our academic or administrative departments directly, please use this form: Pacifica Student Feedback Form.
In recognition of the loss of the campus experience, we would like to extend our appreciation to our student body by offering free registration to Pacifica students who wish to sign up for the upcoming Retreat Center event, “A Depth Psychological Approach to Contemporary American Culture and Political Life” with Dr. Donald Kalsched. This is a three-part series, held on September 24, October 16, and November 6. Recordings will be available for those who register but are unable to attend live. Additional details and instructions for registration can be found on the following link: (view registration instructions here). We shall continue to explore ways to support you and stay connected as a community of learners.
STATUS OF THE CAMPUSES & PLANS FOR FALL 2020
How will courses be delivered in the fall 2020 quarter?
In consultation with state and local health authorities, our accrediting agencies, and members across our community, we have decided to continue our use of distance learning for the remainder of the current calendar year, as a result of the pandemic. Thus, the summer and fall 2020 academic quarters will be conducted virtually, through a variety of optimal, remote learning methods. We believe keeping courses online and off the physical campuses provides the safest and clearest pathway for maintaining the health and well-being of all of our community members and their families.
The decision to maintain distance learning for the remainder of 2020 involved careful examination of all available information from state and local authorities, our accreditation bodies, as well as similarly situated institutions. We reviewed other contingency options that considered student/faculty travel, campus space allowances, and a number of other safety measures, and chose what we determined was the best course of action for Pacifica. Our decisions come with the recognition that this is a time of great uncertainty as we learn more about the novel coronavirus and the associated pandemic each day. Our goal in making and announcing decisions in late May about summer and fall quarters was to allow time for faculty, staff, and students to more fully prepare to engage in academic content and community virtually. The surges in COVID-19 in the past weeks as a number of states sought to re-open has proven that this virus does not behave like a seasonal flu and that re-opening the campuses prematurely would put all involved at unnecessary risk.
How will it be determined when/which students are allowed to come back to campus?
As announced, the campuses remain closed to students and the public until 2021. We are unsure when they may be reopened for use by students, but we do know that our reopening process will be guided by carefully considered milestones. Before a specific date is determined for students and/or public to be allowed to physically come to campus, at minimum the following must take place: 1) The County of Santa Barbara will need to maintain approval from the state to remain in stage-3 of reopening; 2) Pacifica’s Safety Team will create a multi-phased reintroduction of persons plan, adhering to guidelines that are set by the county, that will include social distancing protocols and active response techniques; 3) Pacifica will seek approval from the County of Santa Barbara’s Public Health Department; 4) Once the plan is approved and the Public Health Department has cleared Pacifica, will begin the reopening process of the physical campus.
We will continue to keep everyone updated regarding the status of campus re-openings. Decisions to resume on-campus classes will be made with respect and consideration first to the health of our students and faculty, as well as to the logistical realities of space, student/faculty travel, and educational experience.
REMOTE LEARNING DETAILS & SUPPORT
What is the online experience going to be for fall?
We are committed to learning from the experiences of the spring and summer quarters online to improve course delivery for the fall. The student and faculty survey responses received will generously help inform what has worked well and where improvements are needed. We understand significant online learning is not a method you may have anticipated at Pacifica, if not enrolled in one of our hybrid programs. However, you may be assured we are committing the time and resources needed to continue offering the highest quality education and to reproduce virtually the distinct aspects of a Pacifica education.
Students can expect the majority of synchronous (live) elements of fall courses to be held on the published session dates on our academic calendars for the 2020-21 academic year: https://www.pacifica.edu/student-services/academic-calendars/. Any additional, virtual class meetings will be scheduled with advanced notice in coordination with your program and instructor. Expectations and details for class hours, any asynchronous work, course attendance, assignments, or any additional activities/meetings will be made clear in the program and course materials provided.
The effective, remote learning experience involves dynamic interaction between students and faculty, students and selected course content, and among student peers. Our goal is to ensure our interactive experiential learning in the virtual campus is analogous to the residential experience, though the direct experience of our beautiful physical campus can only be approximated. Learning from student and faculty experiences in the spring, as well as distance learning best practices, academic programs are working to address common issues of Zoom fatigue, engagement in the virtual classroom, opportunities for interaction with faculty and cohort mates, as much as is possible within the parameters of licensure and accreditation, and effective use of learning tools and functions within D2L, our Learning Management System (LMS).
As we have learned from sheltering in place, we may have to live in physical isolation, but we’re now able to connect virtually with the world. There is also the opportunity to develop a psychological perspective on the impact of the pandemic on society and in particular higher education, based on your own experiences in engaging in this virtual delivery format.
I am having difficulty adjusting to and navigating the online course format. What resources or support are available to me?
The transition to remote education has been a time of adaptation for all of us across Pacifica’s community, but we certainly understand this method was not one you anticipated when choosing your graduate studies here, nor one immediately comfortable for all learners. We understand the change of educational delivery format, in combination with the social, emotional, and practical unrest of this moment, has been taxing.
Our faculty and staff are actively working on how to maximize this time online and provide the levels of engagement, rigor, and focus on the relational components that come with a Pacifica education. Addressing concerns about Zoom fatigue, live classroom structures, and opportunities for interaction with faculty and classmates has been of great priority in preparing for upcoming quarters.
For students, having your technology properly situated and comfortable provides the logistical foundation for online learning. Maintaining a secure and reliable internet connection and device is needed. For anyone who may experience difficulties or interruptions to your internet access or equipment that may affect your online coursework, please communicate with your program directly, who will coordinate with appropriate departments to support your needs. For issues related to your Pacifica online systems and accounts, please email ITsupport@pacifica.edu.
For the synchronous (live), virtual classroom experience, Pacifica will continue to utilize the Zoom platform. While all online meeting platforms can come with challenges – and ultimately rely on the bandwidth and usage of participants – we find Zoom to be the most reliable, smooth, and dynamic experience for connecting in your courses. Further details and instructions for Zoom at Pacifica can be found in this guide: Zoom Instructions for Participants.
Getting technologically comfortable within Zoom and its features provides the ability to focus on course material presented and discussed. If you are experiencing technical issues with Zoom, please contact ITsupport@pacifica.edu. But aside from the technical aspects, preparing yourself and your workspace for extended time in a video classroom will be valuable. Instructors can build in break times and other methods for supporting the hours on screen, and we encourage students to be mindful of how they sit or stand, hydrate/eat, protect their eyes, and other self-care practices needed in this virtual format. Please reach out to your program staff or Student Services department if you would like to discuss such strategies in further detail.
Additionally, our continued, collective commitment to civil and professional behavior in this environment is expected of as we adapt and engage in new ways of being with one another online. See the following document for tips and etiquette on communication and Zoom presence with distance learning: Distance Learning – Tips & Etiquette
For housing of course materials, Student Resource Centers, and any asynchronous activities, Pacifica will continue to utilize our learning management system, D2L. A complete set of D2L tutorials can be found in the “Student D2L Help” link at the top of your D2L homepage.
It is also important to thoroughly check course syllabi and other course/program materials to understand expectations, scheduling and other details related to how your course(s) will be adapted to distance learning.
Additionally, our library services (collections and reference) are working remotely while our physical libraries remain closed. They can be a valuable resource when needing to track down readings or assist in research. See here for more detail: Library Services & Collections during campus closures
Aside from being technically situated, success in this online format is benefitted by the relational connections we maintain with one another. We understand the pressures and stress of managing school with work and personal lives is only accentuated for many in these times. Engaging regularly with faculty, staff, and your cohort – even outside of regular class time – fosters relationships healthy to doing well academically and getting through this time. In addition to such opportunities we are working to offer and facilitate, we also encourage students to be active participants in their online learning experience and to seek out the support needed to succeed.
STUDENT SUPPORT & HARDSHIP RESOURCES
I am experiencing hardships related to the crisis. Does Pacifica have any resources available to help?
For hardships creating barriers to your academic success, students may submit a petition to the Education Council for exceptions to academic policy. Please direct petitions to the attention of Francine Matas, Registrar, and indicate that the request is made due to COVID-19. Please see additional details in the next section.
For financial-related hardships, please see the below FAQ on financial resources and support available during this time.
The stress and anxiety that come from the effects of this crisis can be immense. We encourage students to reach out and seek help/support for their mental health. For mental health-related hardships, here are some resources.
- Pacifica utilizes a hotline through the Holman Group for on-call, mental health services. The hotline number is (800) 321-2843.
- Disaster Distress Helpline through SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline
- PGI Alumni Association Resources:
I am having difficulty completing schoolwork or attending all virtual class sessions during this time. Is there any flexibility to the course deadlines or attendance policy?
Yes, we are sensitive to the challenges that students are currently facing. If you need an exception to academic policy, you can petition the Education Council. To do so, send an email to the Registrar, firstname.lastname@example.org. The email should be sent from your My.Pacifica email address and note “Petition” in the subject line. The petition should clearly and concisely state your request, noting specific course names or numbers, if applicable. Please provide the reasons why you are making this request. If the petition is based on medical issues, please provide details about the medical situation or condition and its impact. Please indicate that the request is made due to COVID-19.
I have a health condition / disability that limits my ability to engage in remote classes. What resources are available to me?
The Office of Disability Services will review each request on an individual, case-by-case basis. The remote classroom environment poses unique challenges to students with learning differences and various disabilities. The ADA Coordinator will engage the student in a confidential conversation to assess particular barriers to accessing their education. Students with documented disabilities will be granted reasonable accommodations to equalize access to the academic experience, including the virtual classroom.
Students can contact the Office of Disability Services to request accommodations or more information at DisabilityServices@pacifica.edu
I am an international Student and have questions about my situation. Who can I contact?
As of July 14, the policy proposal that would have forced international students living in the US to leave the country (or transfer schools) if enrolled in online-only courses in the fall was rescinded in court. This returned the guidelines to where they were prior to this recent announcement, with temporary SEVP adaptions permitting international students to engage in remote learning at this time. F-1 students must be enrolled full-time and must maintain their visa status as required by law. We will continue to monitor any developments or changes in guidelines and update you accordingly.
If you have questions, you can contact the Registrar at email@example.com
FINANCIAL INFORMATION & RESOURCES
Will the tuition and fees be adjusted for fall quarter to reflect that it will be fully online?
We understand the appeals for us to reduce tuition and appreciate this is a difficult time for many financially and with the temporary loss of on-campus life. However, given the realities and the uncertainty in which Pacifica finds itself, further reducing the school’s income, tuition or otherwise, risks jeopardizing the school’s integrity and full return to well-being. We must continue to financially support our operations, including paying the salaries of the faculty and staff who continue to work extremely hard to maintain our educational culture as well as innovating and optimizing our distance learning environment.
During the period of time when all instruction is held remotely, residential and non-residential fees will be waived entirely. This waiver does not affect or reduce the amount of scholarships or financial aid available. Financial Aid students’ Cost of Attendance will allow students to borrow beyond Direct Costs; this will not be adjusted and they will be able to continue to borrow at the rate they would have if the above Residential/Non-Residential fees were not removed, hence in most cases resulting in a larger refund. If tuition were reduced, then the Cost of Attendance would also need to be reduced. Student refunds would not necessarily change from the above scenario, but they would only be borrowing less. For specific details, please contact Financial Aid or Student Accounts, who can work with students in need of financial assistance. Additional details about financial resources or support available during this time is found in the next question.
We believe that students during the pandemic are continuing to receive the full value that is agreed in exchange for their tuition. Specifically, they are receiving the same degree, granted by the same WSCUC accredited and Department of Education certified institution, and the same number of units, taught by the same professors who are devoting their same (or more) amount of time, all as is contemplated in the Enrollment Agreement. In short, students are receiving the same educational content from Pacifica through distance learning methods that are both safer for students and faculty, and also specifically approved by WSCUC and the Department of Education.
Are there any financial resources or support available?
Our Financial Aid and Student Accounts Offices are working hard in support and consideration of those students that may be experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.
There are several adjustments or resources available if financial assistance is needed during this time:
- Fees and Holds – Please note that during the period of time when instruction is held remotely, all residential and non-residential fees will be waived. These fees are considered direct costs and will appear on the Enrollment Agreement, however will not be applied to your student account. This waiver does not affect or reduce the amount of scholarships or financial aid available. Additionally, flexibility is being offered regarding late payment fees and account hold amounts that may affect your course registration.
- Advances – Students receiving financial aid that exceed direct costs and have no previous balance can request a one-time only annual advance of $1,000. For students needing a second advance as a result of COVID hardship, a petition can be submitted to the Student Accounts Committee (email Mary Haney at firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Professional Judgement – The Office of Financial Aid at Pacifica Graduate Institute can use Professional Judgment to make adjustments on your Cost of Attendance (COA) per academic year. The professional judgment rendered by the Director of Financial Aid is a decision process used when special circumstances influence your educational pursuit. To begin the Professional Judgment appeal or be provided with examples/consultation, please contact the Financial Aid Office. They will advise regarding the request and needed documentation.
- CARES Act (see below)
- Scholarships – Pacifica also continues to offer a host of grant and scholarship opportunities. For the list of scholarships available, see here: https://www.pacifica.edu/financial-aid/financial-aid-scholarship-programs/.
Additional scholarships or funding opportunities for those experiencing hardships related to COVID-19 or online learning are being investigated and will be communicated if and when they become available.
For specific guidance, please contact our Financial Aid or Student Accounts Offices directly.
Did Pacifica receive funds from the federal CARES Act like other institutions of higher learning? If so, how are the funds being utilized or distributed?
The CARES Act, the federal stimulus package passed during the early stages of the pandemic, included HEERF grants to all institutions of higher education across the country. Funding amounts for each school were determined based on a formula involving the number of enrolled students and Pell grant recipients. Pacifica received a $204,000 grant through HEERF in two equal installments. The first was designated for direct student aid by payment in cash to students determined eligible based on a series of guidelines set forth by the Department of Education. Eligible students have all been notified directly and $102,000 has been distributed. If you think you may be eligible and did not receive notice, please contact our Financial Aid Office.
The other half of the HEERF grant was designated by the DOE to be used for enhancement of educational services, in particular changes to the delivery of instruction due to COVID-19. This is a direct benefit to the student body. These funds are being applied to a series of upgrades of our online facilities, infrastructure, and software, to optimize course delivery and adaptation of content to accommodate the changed teaching environment while strictly meeting all accreditation and licensure eligibility requirements. While these grant funds are helpful, they cover only a portion of the amount we are investing in the quality of your education.
In addition to that, Pacifica obtained a government facilitated ”PPP” bank loan (which will likely be later forgiven), based on the school’s needs, and on the condition that all loan proceeds are used exclusively to assist in payment of salaries of employees to minimize lay-offs, and of certain specified fixed monthly costs associated with the physical campuses.
What is the status of Pacifica’s financial stability during this time?
In considering Pacifica’s financial stability, it may be helpful to understand the monitoring of finances that occur on a regular basis. As with other institutions of higher education, for Pacifica to be able to offer federally funded student loans (Title IV), we must meet rigorous financial benchmarks in the form of ratios (especially from the Department of Education); we also have a set of bank covenants that we routinely must report on. Because Pacifica is an “ESOP” corporation (employee stock ownership plan) we have yearly audits with multi-year projections which involve careful scrutiny by external auditors. In addition, Pacifica’s management meets regularly with its Board of Trustees, during which time there are in-depth discussions of all aspects of our finances. We have had a number of such discussions since the COVID-19 crisis emerged and have implemented approved plans to ensure Pacifica remains fiscally secure going forward.
There have been substantial cost cutting measures implemented in the past 4 months that have been made to help offset the loss of revenues from our residential programs. We are continuing to evaluate all expenditures and look for ways to reduce costs while maintaining the quality of all programs. We have also obtained a “PPP” loan, which we believe will be fully forgiven as we meet all criteria for this as we have significant fixed costs. In addition, we received HEERF funds as mentioned above and we are devoting Pacifica’s portion of these to optimizing our remote learning means and methods.
What is the status of Pacifica’s accreditation at this time?
Pacifica’s accreditation status with the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and Department of Education (DOE) are not presently in jeopardy, as a result of the current crisis and subsequent move to remote course delivery. All Pacifica’s online courses are authorized and accepted by WSCUC and the Department of Education (DE) through December 31st, 2020, and we shall continue to be in ongoing communication with them, monitoring updates as the situation progresses. Students should have no concern about their course credits being accepted, nor about the status of their federal student aid.
Specifically regarding WSCUC, Pacifica received a reaffirmation of accreditation of a six year term in March 2019. As part of the cycle of accreditation, a special visit from a WSCUC committee will be held in December 2020. This visit will be held virtually with the focus on examining the progress on the ten recommendations left by the committee as part of our fall 2018 on-site visit. Our faculty, staff, administration, and board have been working to address all aspects of the recommendations, as well as continuing with our ongoing self-study as part of the accreditation cycle of review. A report to WSCUC will be submitted in September in advance of the virtual visit by the committee in December. We will continue to keep the community updated on the progress of the report and visit.
For complete information on accreditation at Pacifica, visit: https://www.pacifica.edu/about-pacifica/accreditation/.
RESPONSE TO ISSUES OF EQUITY & SYSTEMIC RACISM
What is Pacifica’s response to issues of equity and systemic racism?
Pacifica has a Diversity and Inclusion Council, whose membership includes staff, faculty, administration, and student representatives; there is also a parallel committee on our Board of Trustees. Over the past few years, the Council has expanded and intensified their activities, even prior to recent social events—but there remains much to be done. We need to move forward with mindful, deliberate actions. To this end, we consulted with the current President ABPSI, who helped facilitate a meeting between Pacifica’s Board Chair, the Chair of the board’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the President, Provost, and Chair of our Diversity and Inclusion Council. We are currently planning next steps, to examine issues of systemic racism and implicit biases. We shall consider the need for re-vision of the institution and its role in the community in terms of equity. The notion of “diversity” itself may also need to be reconsidered in terms of its implicit Eurocentric frame of reference.
In exploring equity, we intend to take inventory and assess our practices, procedures, and documents; as well as examine our hiring practices for staff and faculty. Over the past three years, we have implemented training in bias for hiring and this will be built upon. Our letter in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death was a position statement which will be followed by further steps. From a depth perspective, we are discussing issues of denial in our society, be that from danger in the pandemic, systemic racism, or climate change. We intend to reexamine practices of conflict resolution and look more deeply at our curriculum, our pedagogy, and models of psyche/mind. Working in alliance with Pacifica’s Alumni Association, we are seeking ways to increase student scholarships, especially for individuals from underserved communities.