Utilizing data from the 2020 Student Life Survey, the Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SRSGA) is pushing administrators to make changes to help students excel during another semester impacted by the pandemic.
Vice President of Student and Academic Affairs Leif Lindgren and Sen. Caleb Covey have been meeting with deans and other officials to discuss what students have told them about their experiences at Slippery Rock University and learning in a virtual environment.
While data from the survey showed 94% of students are either satisfied or highly satisfied with their academic program, the workload has been stressful for some.
“I feel like now there is extra pressure and 10 times more work than in person,” wrote one student. “Over half the time you are teaching yourself and doing everything by yourself.”
While survey responses are anonymous, the survey is only sent out to students with an SRU email address.
For a majority of students who were dissatisfied with different aspects of the college experience, many cited changes made due to the pandemic as the reason.
For Lindgren, addressing the mental health situation is a top priority.
“For students in fall 2020, especially with online learning, it just felt like students were just assigned work and weren’t able to meet with tutors or other classmates where they could have talked over what was going on in the class,” Lindgren said.
To help alleviate some of the stress students have been feeling, Lindgren and Covey would like to see the university implement an A-B-C-No Credit grading scale for the semester.
Covey has taken that plan to one dean already, Michael Zieg, the interim dean of the College of Health, Engineering and Science. Lindgren has also sat down with SRU Provost Abbey Zink to get the initiative put in front of the president’s cabinet.
With just over a month until finals, it is not known if that change can take place in time.
The concern with grades this semester has only been amplified by the coursework and what some see as a degraded educational experience. One SRU senior said the time spent in class was much less than the scheduled time and that some professors were not available during scheduled office hours.
Along with other difficulties, like finding time for groups of remote students to meet virtually for projects, they likened the coursework being assigned to them as “busy work.”
“This semester I may have earned good grades, but I’m not sure what relevant information I was actually taught in class compared to being forced to teach myself,” the senior said.
A remote and unexpected educational experience has left some feeling as though they were not getting their money’s worth, with nearly 10% of respondents citing the changes made for the semester due to COVID-19 as why they were dissatisfied.
While some said the online classroom experience did not meet their expectations based on the tuition, many did not like paying for services they could not utilize.
“I live out of state and am still required to pay for the ARC, health center and other facilities that are only on campus,” wrote one out-of-state student. “Also, I am paying for the counseling center, but they are not even able to provide services to students out of state.”
While SRU did reduce some of its fees for the year, like the student activities fees, those reductions only saved students a few hundred dollars. Tuition prices were also frozen for a second year in a row due to the pandemic.
Still, full-time, out-of-state students can end up paying $3,000 to $4,000 more than their in-state counterparts. Learning from home in another state means they are not able to use the gym or some of the technology resources SRU has on-campus despite paying for these services.
As for counseling services, Kenneth Messina, the clinical director of the Student Counseling Center, said that because of state licensing requirements, the staff is unable to see students who are not residing in Pennsylvania.
While the university continues to assist students having a hard time this semester and provide opportunities to relax, like with its Kickback Week in lieu of spring break, Lindgren, Covey and the rest of the SRSGA continue to listen to student input in order to make positive changes for the semester and beyond.
“We are working on certain things from the survey to try to implement so, be on the lookout for that,” Covey said. “Hopefully, we can get some of these things done.”