This page will be regularly updated to include answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 and the university’s plans for fall 2020. For more information, see our COVID-19 Resources Center and Campus Messages pages and our Forward Together fall semester 2020 plan.
Last update: 4 August 2020
Fall 2020 Semester Plans
So what exactly are the enrollment options for the 2020 fall semester?
Undergraduates in Aurora have four enrollment options for the fall. Students may enroll full time (12–17 credit hours) or part time (11 credit hours or less) via enhanced remote delivery. Alternatively they may enroll full time or part time via AU Online, provided their specific curriculum is available in this format. Graduate students have essentially the same options if their particular classes are offered in both formats. Specific arrangements for George Williams College and Woodstock Center will be announced soon.
What do you mean by “enhanced remote delivery?” How is this different from courses offered through AU Online?
Fall classes offered by enhanced remote delivery will be synchronous thanks to the use of technology. Classes will meet at regularly scheduled times with professors and students engaging in a video classroom. Course management systems such as Moodle will be used to make essential and supplemental materials available. These classes will emphasize real-time interaction, individualized support and relationship building. While last spring, AU faculty transitioned from one teaching platform to another over a long weekend, this fall they will have the benefit of months of preparation and professional development. Through its AU Online program, the institution also offers asynchronous instruction to students who work at times that are convenient to them.1 Some learners favor this mode of learning since it allows them to blend work on baccalaureate and advanced degrees with busy work, family and personal schedules.
How will the 2020 fall experience be different from that of the 2020 spring semester at AU, when the COVID-19 outbreak forced the sudden decision to close AU campuses?
Great question. The fall experience will be very different. Here’s a quick list of key points:
For the most part, decisions about coming to the campus will be left in the hands of students and families. Accreditation and licensure requirements in some programs will require class participants to learn on campus or in clinical, student teaching and placement sites. In these instances, rigorous safety measures will be in place.
The campus will remain open, so resources and facilities will be available for use with safety measures in place. Those who found it difficult to study or concentrate at home now will have the option of working and studying in campus settings.
Campus offices will be staffed in person. A student seeking academic support will find counsel or tutoring regularly available. In most instances, appointments will be required. Drop-in service will be more limited. Students who prefer not to come to campus will receive assistance using virtual methodologies.
Additional technology resources will be made available to students free of charge through an innovative new “laptop loaner” program. Internet access will be readily available on campus.
Residence halls will be open on a modified basis.
The food service will operate with a number of safety precautions and modifications in place.
Social life will be different. Though large group activities will not be possible, a range of alternative programs will be available.
Faculty members plan expanded office hours to emphasize individualized instruction. Both face-to-face (or mask-to-mask) appointments will be possible and Zoom options be provided.
We still await final decisions about fall intercollegiate athletic competition from the NCAA and the NACC. Even if Spartan teams don’t play this fall, student-athletes will have opportunities for work appropriate with coaches and other department personnel.
Likewise, faculty and staff are engaged in dialogue and planning regarding music and theatre options and strategies for providing safe co-curricular and club experiences.
Since my academic experience will be different this fall, will I receive a tuition refund?
Last spring AU quickly made room and board refunds. Late payment fees were suspended. The university then reached out to help a large number of students by awarding almost $3 million in direct assistance. Free summer classes were offered and price reductions were implemented in the 2020–2021 academic year, including those associated with campus activities, technology and many lab experiences.
Throughout the fall semester, the university will continue to respond to special requests for financial assistance through the WEAREONEAU Fund. Dollars awarded are gifts, not loans. We are grateful to the many university employees, trustees and alumni who continue to donate gifts for this purpose. Students experiencing particular hardships also had the opportunity to seek the reworking of their financial aid awards. Individuals who want to explore this option should reach out directly to the financial aid office.
Will tuition refunds be offered or will prices be rolled back now that the decision has been made to deliver classes via enhanced remote delivery?
We want to be honest about this. Barring an unanticipated catastrophic event, AU will not make such adjustments. We recognize that the virus has created financial hardships for many individuals and families, in part because COVID-19 also is impacting the university in a negative way. These are a number of variables that make it impossible for AU to satisfy requests for additional reductions that we’d like to explain here in greater depth.
First, AU’s tuition already is the lowest of any private college or university in Illinois.2 We also have a long history of modes annual increases. We pair these commitments with a generous financial aid policy with institutional scholarship and grants covering almost half of the average full-time undergraduate bill. Finally, AU trustees mandate careful stewardship of resources. AU doesn’t rely upon lines of credit. Borrowing is limited.
At present, university expenses actually are going up significantly. More instructional expenses are required to keep class sizes lower, and technology and safety are major sources of expenditures. Like institutions across the state and country, we hope for additional support from state, federal and private donor sources. We understand, however, that we must not count on such help. We must continue to manage carefully and invest wisely.
We want to be candid about this reality. During a period when many colleges and universities have experienced significant financial problems, AU has continued to move forward. We are dedicated to putting the needs of our students first through careful management, thoughtful stewardship and wise investments. This is how we keep our tuition low in relation to peers. We know that we must live within our means to protect students from rapidly increasing tuition rates.
How will housing for the 2020 fall semester be handled?
Residence halls on the Aurora campus will be open during the 2020 fall semester for single occupancy only. Residents will be expected to adhere strictly to Spartan Safety guidelines and other restrictions relating to toilet and shower areas, study rooms, laundry facilities, and common areas. In addition, they will be expected to comply with the terms of the Spartan Compact document developed with the 2020 fall semester in mind. A modified guest policy will be in place.
Housing contracts will cover the period from your assigned move-in date to Wednesday 25 November 2020 at 5:00 p.m. Prior to this deadline, information relating to 2021 spring housing options will be available so that students and families are able to make plans.
The university has contracted with a local hotel in the event that off-campus isolation and quarantine facilities become necessary. Our strong preference will be for students to return home under such circumstances, but we understand that this may not be possible for everyone. Finally, the university may be able to accommodate the needs of students who want to live in a single room in an off-campus location.
For more information, see the 24 July 2020 Campus Message on housing.
What about the 2021 spring semester?
Like many AU students, the university’s faculty, staff and administration hope it will be possible to return most instruction to our bricks and mortar classrooms in the spring. We anticipate making a decision about the spring around Thanksgiving.
What is happening with intercollegiate athletic competition?
In a recent decision, the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference announced its decision to move all fall competition to the 2021 spring semester. Specific information was shared by coaches with student-athletes in individual messages and calls. AU does plan to provide strength, conditioning, teambuilding, and development opportunities to fall, winter, and spring sport participants throughout the 2020 fall semester in strict accordance with NCAA recommendations.
For more information see this announcement from the AU Athletics Department.
How will the university ensure its high academic standards this fall?
Faculty have worked all summer to prepare for the possibility of continued remote instruction. Students with concerns about their experiences should reach out immediately to course faculty, department chairs, academic deans or the vice president for academic affairs for assistance.
Will the Pass/Fail options be available again?
This is a decision that the Faculty Senate will make in collaboration with academic administrators after classes resume in the fall.
I have additional questions. How should I seek answers?
First, please watch for the text notifications that will announce the posting of new information on the university’s home page. You also may reach out directly to key university personnel. Each of the university’s five academic deans (Schools of Arts and Sciences, Business and Public Policy, Education and Human Performance, Nursing and Social Work) is prepared to provide information. You may also reach out to your academic advisor or directly to a specific office. A directory is provided here for your convenience.
Can you tell me more about the information sources the university relied upon to make its decision?
Sure. Here’s a list of the external authorities we monitor closely:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Disaster Resilient Universities Network
Illinois Department of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Research Center
Kane County Health Department
National Collegiate Athletic Association
What key facts or trends prompted the university decision?
A number of specific circumstances or trends caused particular concern and impacted the AU decision about the fall:
- A majority of states, including regions of the country where current students live, are reporting an increased spread of COVID-19. A significant number of AU undergraduates live in states experiencing especially serious outbreaks.
- While Illinois and Wisconsin are not experiencing increases as steep as some western and southern states, the moving averages are trending upward in both states. Chicago’s mayor has recently implemented restrictions to the city’s reopening plans based on these trends.
- There is an increased trend in positive cases for people between ages 10–19 nationwide and in Illinois. Additionally, since mid-June, 30% of new COVID-19 cases from the Chicago area have come from the 18–29 age range.
- Ongoing projections suggest that this situation will worsen, rather than improve, throughout fall semester.
- Finally, the turnaround time for securing COVID-19 test results is increasing significantly in our area. Delays now extend for as long as two weeks, thereby increasing the chance for spread unless strict isolation and quarantine rules are followed.
- AU leaders hoped to secure access to testing methodologies with much faster turnaround times. Now it appears such technology will not be available to us till late fall at the earliest.
Requirements Before Returning to Campus
Will students be required to be tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus?
Aurora University will not require proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to return to the campus. The university does, however, expect all students to adhere to strict physical distancing and the use of facial coverings for the 14 days prior to returning to the campus community. In addition, any residential students coming from out of state are expected to quarantine at home for 14 days prior to their move-in date.
Will students be required to quarantine upon arrival to campus?
No. Students will be expected to take appropriate precautions while traveling, including wearing a face covering at all times, practicing excellent hand hygiene, avoiding face touching and, wherever possible, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others.
How will Aurora University ensure that students adhere to all COVID-19 precautions?
Students will be expected to read and sign the Spartan Compact as they return to the campus for the 2020 fall semester. Students will be expected to abide by the terms set forth in the Spartan Compact. Serious consequences are possible for those who fail to do so.
What else will students be required to do when they check into a residence hall?
Once hall assignments are completed, students will be notified of designated check-in times. Every effort will be made to ensure physical distancing during this process. Masks must be worn at all times. Students will be expected to provide completed health questionnaires and signed copies of the Spartan Compact.
Requirements Once You Are on Campus
Will students be required to test for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus?
Aurora University expects all students to monitor health through daily screening measures. Each student will receive a COVID-19 kit that includes an AU drawstring bag filled with a COVID-19 daily health screening checklist, Spartan Safety guidelines, disinfectant wipes, AU Safety key card, digital thermometer, hand sanitizer, and an AU face mask. Individuals who are sick must remain at home or in their residence hall room. Students will be required to report to AU Health Services any symptoms of COVID-19, exposure to COVID-19, or a personal positive test for COVID-19 (email@example.com/630-844-5434). Additional requirements will be in place for certain populations of students, including those living on campus or student-athletes participating in athletic department activities.
Will students be required to wear face coverings?
Yes. Students will be required to wear facial coverings over their nose and mouth when walking in public (e.g., hallways, common areas, restrooms, across campus) both inside and outside of campus buildings. Facial coverings are not required when alone in a residence hall room, or while showering or eating.
What other requirements will be in place on campus?
All students will abide by the Spartan Safety guidelines. The eight elements set forth in the Spartan Safety document constitute the foundation for Aurora University efforts to mitigate risks associated with the COVID-19 virus and therefore are non-negotiable. All members of the community must comply with these measures.
- Use COVID-19 self-monitoring checklist to monitor for symptoms daily.
- Stay home or in your residential hall room when you are sick.
- Stay at least 6 feet from other people.
- Wear a cloth face covering over nose and mouth at all times on campus, indoors and outdoors, except when in your residence hall room, or while showering or eating.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.
- Cover cough or sneeze with tissue (or into elbow/sleeve), and then wash hands.
- Do not touch eyes, nose, mouth, or face.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, especially those shared by others (e.g., photocopiers, file cabinets, door handles).
Tell me more about the university’s plans to provide COVID-19 testing members of the campus community.
Aurora University will require members of its residence life staff to participate in the testing services provided by the university in collaboration with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA Health Care) to help all serving in this capacity to understand the process through firsthand experience. Consistent with current recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other members of the campus community will not be required to participate in entry testing.
Students will be expected to participate in the university’s surveillance testing initiative conducted in collaboration with two external health organizations. Samplings of students in select populations (i.e., student-athletes and residence life) will be required to participate by providing a saliva sample. Test results will be available within 48–72 hours. This testing methodology was approved by the FDA in May 2020.
The university also will invest in making diagnostic testing available to members of AU community free of charge. Individuals who have been exposed recently to the virus or who are evidencing potential symptoms of the virus will be required to participate in the program offered in collaboration with VNA Health Care. Triage will be handled through Health Services for students or through Human Resources for employees.
Will the university also offer thermal screening?
Yes. Thermal testing stations will be located in high-traffic campus locations. Testing will be conducted by a stand-alone Zortemp screening instrument or with a handheld non-contact digital thermometer. Individuals with elevated temperatures will be asked to return to their home or residence hall and to contact Health Services or Human Resources for follow-up screening.
What should I do if I become ill?
Students who are ill, are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or have a known COVID-19 exposure, will be required to stay home or in their residence hall room. Students should contact Health Services for guidance on next steps.
What happens if a student needs to quarantine or isolate?
It is possible that a student who lives on campus may be exposed to COVID-19 and may be required to isolate or quarantine. Under such circumstances, the university’s strong preference is for the student to return home. However, in the event this is not possible, AU has entered into a master lease with a local hotel to provide appropriate accommodations for such individuals (e.g., isolated bathroom facilities, appropriate PPE, etc.). AU Health Services will monitor these students on a daily basis. Food delivery will be arranged. Other campus services will be provided via remote delivery. To the extent possible, academic and instructional activities will continue. The university will make every effort to abide by relevant FERPA and HIPPA requirements as these services are rendered safely. VNA Health Care will handle contact tracing in collaboration with AU.
What will happen next?
Faculty will continue to prepare and administrators will share additional information as it becomes available. Watch for RAVE announcements that a new posting is available on our home pages.
Are there causes for hope?
Yes. Experts tell us that wearing masks, washing hands and practicing social distancing are major deterrents against the spread of the virus. Reports indicate positive momentum in efforts to produce new prevention and treatment options too. We can and will do this!
1 At present, undergraduate majors offered through AU Online are limited to business, cybersecurity, general studies and social work. More options are planned for the future.
2 Tuition at Blackburn College actually is lower, but the institution is a “work college” that requires students to work on campus to “earn their way.” At AU, campus work is an option, not a requirement.