Pomona announces it will close campus, offer online-only fall courses

A large clock tower sits in the middle of a paved plaza
Pomona will not invite students back to campus this fall. (Mabel Lui • The Student Life) 

Pomona College announced it will be online-only this coming fall, according to an announcement made online and via email this morning by President G. Gabrielle Starr. 

The college “will not be able to bring students back to campus in the fall,” Starr said, in a decision mirroring Scripps’ announcement today. 5C students will be allowed to cross-register for Pomona’s classes and take them online. 

Pomona will not be offering on-campus housing, though the college will “provide financial aid to eligible students to cover their off-campus cost of attendance … based on average expenses for off-campus living,” the email said. According to Pomona’s website on the 2020-2021 cost of attendance, the college uses an estimate of $12,820 to account for off-campus room & board, while on campus room & board totals $17,820.

While students will be able to apply for remote jobs beginning Aug. 10, the college will “convert a portion of the fall student employment allotment into grants for students with the greatest financial need,” Starr said. Students facing financial need will also be eligible to request loaner laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots.

The pivot to strictly remote instruction will mean the college’s international students on F-1 visas will not be permitted to stay in the U.S., according to an ICE memo released July 6. First-year students who have not yet received their F-1 visas will now no longer be eligible for them and will have no means to enter the country.

Starr notes in her email that the college “recognize[s] the complications” these restrictions have on international students and intends to provide further updates in the coming days.

Students across the 5Cs will still be able to cross-register for online classes, and the college will still begin classes a week earlier than normal on Aug. 24 with final exams finishing by Dec. 4.

Pomona has also made the decision to cancel all athletic competition for the fall semester, according to updates posted on Pomona’s website. During the fall, the college will provide “educational, team building and wellness programming” for athletes.

In looking to the spring 2021 semester, Starr hopes for Pomona to bring “at least some students” back to campus. During the fall, the college will take steps to prepare for the possibility of a spring return by “upgrading air filtering systems, installing plastic barriers and automatic doors openers, among many other measures.”

The decision comes the day after Los Angeles County reported the highest number of coronavirus infections seen in one day — over 4,000 — and amid a state-wide coronavirus surge, which has prompted a shutdown of outdoor dining, bars, movie theaters and museums in the county. 

Scripps and Pomona’s decision follows other California schools like USC, who, after announcing a hybrid fall semester, ultimately opted for online instruction, as did the 23-school Cal State university system. 

However, the two colleges are unique when compared with other liberal arts colleges — according to data collected by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Scripps and Pomona are the second and third liberal arts colleges in the country to announce a strictly remote fall semester, the first being Soka University of America in Orange County.

Harvey Mudd College plans to bring its students back in a hybrid format if conditions are safe and Los Angeles County permits. Claremont McKenna College is making similar plans but has delayed its final decision until July 24 at the latest. Pitzer College likewise delayed announcing any final decision until later this month.

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