While students last semester were able to freely elect whether to take fall classes online or in person, the process this Spring to switch to online is a bit more complicated.
“A student can’t just decide that they’re going to go online,” said Barbara Frazee, vice provost for student life. “For a student to switch to online status they have to have had a significant change in their own situation, such as a medical condition that has arisen or changed, or a financial impact that has happened due to COVID.”
Without documentation proving students meet one of these two demands, they will not be permitted to transfer to fully online classes. Frazee expects students to make the transition from in-person to online schooling only because of drastic life changes, such as if they had a parent lose their job due to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.
One student called this change in policy “unfair.”
“Students should be able to change their mind after coming here this semester if they feel a little unsafe after being here,” said Jenna Keller, a sophomore in the College of Health and Human Sciences. “Obviously they should be able to make that decision after coming to campus.”
Frazee said that if a student is granted the switch to online classes, they can then apply to cancel their housing contract with University Residences.
If they don’t meet the criteria to make the switch, students still retain the right to buy out their housing contracts with UR.
“This is the way it’s been for years,” Frazee said. “If you decide you don’t want to be here on the West Lafayette campus, but you’re going to continue as a Purdue student, you can buy out your contract. That’s 75% of your housing and then 75% of the lowest meal plan.”
The buyout process makes students pay for only one semester, Frazee said, and typically is used by students who choose to move into a Greek house for the spring semester or those who elect to move into an apartment in the middle of the academic year.
“We usually have, over the course of the year, 100 students who buy out their contracts for miscellaneous reasons,” Frazee said.
Applications to switch to online coursework opened Oct. 19 and must be submitted by Nov. 13. So far, Frazee said the University has received a few inquiries about moving online, but no official paperwork has been filed for the process.
“We haven’t had any students request it through housing at this time,” she said.
Keller said she’s never thought about transferring online, and thinks that Purdue has done well in creating a safe space for students to learn.
“I feel safe here,” she said, “and I like the environment here more than being online.”
Even so, many students are still seemingly unaware of the University’s policy change and thought they retained the option to choose either method of coursework for the coming semester.
Alexa Orozco, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said she was considering transferring online this spring.
“The main reason I wanted to come to campus is obviously to see how life was and to have my own time to do my studying and everything instead of being at home all the time,” she said. “I was considering going online next semester but now maybe not, because now we can’t. I was considering it because the same classes are going to be online, so I might as well try to save some money financially.”
“But if I can’t now,” she added, “that kinda sucks.”
Tim Doty, a Purdue spokesperson, said more information will be released later this week regarding criteria for the transition to online classes.