Oct. 2, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

As we welcome October and the first hint of fall-like weather, I am writing with an update after a particularly busy period of activity on campus. Even as we responded to a small increase in positive COVID-19 cases, there is much good news to share.  

COVID-19 TESTING PROGRAM
The most recent student COVID-19 testing results, as of yesterday, reflect a 99.942 negativity rate, with no new positive results among our student body and no reported and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19 among faculty and staff.
 

Our first several weeks on campus have been successful and we continue to be vigilant in our health and safety efforts. This is why my leadership team and I did not hesitate when agreeing with our Rapid Response Team’s decision to quarantine the student residents in Alumni Hall. As I stated in my letter to you on Tuesday evening, this decision was made as a preventative measure so that we can control any spread of the virus. 

I am pleased to share with you today that the 359 test results received yesterday were negative, meaning that all of the known contacts of our most recent positive cases were negative. This gives us some guarded optimism that we may have caught this before it became an outbreak.

The dashboard on our public website remains the best source for our COVID-19 testing status. Updates to our COVID-19 dashboard, available here, will be made at least twice a week, although the data are monitored daily by our health experts and the administration. 

My thanks to everyone for their attentiveness to the best practices for protecting one another, most especially to the residents of Alumni Hall who have weathered this unexpected change with great understanding and adaptability.

NECHE Virtual Site Visit

Earlier this week, a team of eight peers from institutions like Springfield College conducted three days of Zoom meetings as part of our decennial accreditation process. This site visit was the culmination of more than two years of work to prepare a comprehensive self-study of the ways that we meet the nine Standards of Accreditation of the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Nearly 150 members of the campus community attended the team’s report out via Zoom on Wednesday and heard from team chair, Dr. Rhona Free, President of the University of Saint Joseph, who summarized the strengths and concerns coming out of the review process.

The visiting team recognized the many strengths that contribute to the distinctiveness of Springfield College. Emanating from our collective understanding of our mission, the visiting team commented among the strengths on the dedication and commitment of faculty and staff to educating and supporting students in leadership in service to others. The team reported on a few concerns, each of which we also identified in our self-study. They include increasing the diversity of our faculty and staff and focusing on the retention of our BIPOC community members, developing a strategy for our regional and online campuses that take us into our next evaluation period, and ensuring equitable workloads during our COVID-19 response.

Dr. Mary Ann Coughlin has a stellar reputation in accreditation and institutional research and is widely considered one of the top experts in integrating analysis and narrative to convey an institution’s story. We know Mary Ann, too, as a thoughtful colleague who is always willing to do whatever needs to be done to keep the College moving forward. I remain extraordinarily grateful for her leadership, her analytical acumen, and her commitment to Springfield College. 

The Commission will consider our reaccreditation in late November and I am confident that we will hear more good news by Thanksgiving.

Board of Trustees meeting

This past weekend, the Springfield College Board of Trustees held its annual meeting remotely. Despite our being apart physically, our Trustees were deeply engaged in the business of the College. It felt highly consequential, as discussions related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the short and long term were discussed. I hope you will be reassured as I am to know that Trustees remained focused on their roles as stewards of the institution and to protect our Humanics philosophy and mission and ensure the long-term sustainability of Springfield College.

The cost of attendance for the upcoming year is a typical agenda item for the Board at the fall meeting. In recognition of the effects of the pandemic, the Board voted unanimously for a 0% tuition increase for 2021-2022. I appreciate the Board’s sensitivity to all the ways the pandemic has affected Springfield College and to their commitment to ensuring that we remain affordable.

Virtual Fall Open House

The College held our first-ever virtual Fall Open House last weekend as well. It actually runs through today (Friday, Oct. 2). With the limitations on campus visits, prospective students enjoyed the live sessions online over the weekend or they may view the recordings on their own time.

Our admissions team is capturing attendance at the week-long event as the number of students signing the application fee waiver, exempting them from the $50 fee. As of yesterday, a total of 352 students were “counted” as attending. This is about 10% higher than our attendance at last year’s in-person fall open house.  

The success of the virtual open house again is a campus-wide effort - from our students sharing their Springfield College experience at the student panel and during the live campus tour to our student-athletes and coaches in the athletic session, to our faculty and staff in their many opportunities. A special shout out to Dr. Stuart Jones and the enrollment management team for their hard work and dedication. We continue to beat the odds as we watch the enrollment trends decline for other institutions.

I look forward to the opportunity to welcome these prospective students (and more) to campus when it is safe to do so. Between now and then, we will continue to engage them virtually as we work toward a new student enrollment of 600 students for the fall of 2021.

Financial Aid Audit

The College was selected this summer for a financial aid audit. This is the first time in 25 years the College has gone through such a comprehensive review of our financial aid processes and procedures. The audit was truly a random selection and not as a result of any red flags in our reporting. The great news is the audit went extremely well, with one finding related to our reporting of students who withdrew from the College. There is no liability associated with this finding and our Director of Financial Aid Troy Davis and Registrar Marshall Bradway are working together to address the reporting issue. This is an excellent outcome of a thorough audit and I thank and congratulate everyone who was involved in this unexpected addition to our fall plans.

Thank you all for your efforts thus far in helping protect the Pride. It is because of you we continue to keep our campus open. The last week has also proved what I have known all along, that the Springfield College community is resilient, committed, inventive, and creative. The College is better for your involvement in the wide range of expressions of our mission.  

Sincerely,

Mary-Beth Cooper
Springfield College President