Pomona to open applications for students wishing to return mid-semester

A large bell tower and clock overlook the sunset.
Pomona College plans to implement numerous public health measures if students are back on campus in spring. (Chris Nardi • The Student Life)

Pomona College will open applications in January for students wishing to return to campus in spring pending Los Angeles County approval, President G. Gabrielle Starr announced in an email to students Wednesday.

Applicants experiencing hardships, applicants abroad in different time zones, first-years and new transfer students will be prioritized to return if the college is granted county approval in March, Starr said.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors who apply will be chosen through a lottery system, in which lottery spaces for each class are proportionate to the number of applications received for each class, according to the email. 

Higher education institutions in LA County are currently unable to reopen in the spring, having received guidance from the LA County Department of Public Health Dec. 2 that requires higher education institutions to remain closed. 

Starr said she anticipates “a full re-opening of campus” in fall 2021 and that the college plans to offer “a robust range” of summer research opportunities, but Pomona also aims to bring some students back in the spring if possible. 

The college is “pushing to change” what Starr said is the county’s “highly-restrictive” approach to higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“More and more colleges nationwide have seen success with containing the virus as students return to campus,” Starr said. “In this crisis, higher education institutions can be allies to the public health effort by offering students regular testing, contact tracing and other measures.”

Pomona intends to apply to a waiver program introduced by LA County that would allow up to 10 colleges to apply to bring at most 500 students back to campus, according to Starr. 

The county will only launch the program if daily COVID-19 cases fall below 10 per 100,000 residents, according to previous TSL reporting. Currently, the county is averaging 110 new cases per 100,000 residents.

If given the green light to bring students back on campus, financial aid and refunds for the cost of room and board will be adjusted accordingly.

Students receiving financial aid who do not return to campus will receive full refunds for the cost of room and board in January, and as with the fall, refunds will be based on an off-campus budget, Starr said.

Students receiving financial aid who apply to return to campus will receive a partial refund based on room and board expenses through the week of March 8, according to the email. If students cannot return, Pomona will provide an additional refund in February or March to cover the remaining housing costs.

Starr said students can expect an update in February or March about what campus life could look like if permitted to return, but at this time, LA County “is still quite cautious about gatherings,” Starr said.

“It is our hope that if we are allowed to bring students to campus, the county also will modify some of the rules, providing opportunity for some fun and recreational activities with appropriate precautions such as physical distancing,” she said.

The college plans to implement public health measures if students are back on campus in spring, Starr said. 

The Claremont Colleges have partnered with Shield T3, a COVID-19 testing service, to manage a “certified laboratory” at the colleges. The lab would conduct twice-weekly testing of all students living on campus with rapid result saliva PCR tests.

Student Health Services would carry out contact tracing services and perform wellness checks on any students in quarantine or isolation, according to Starr. 

The college has also upgraded air filters throughout campus, increased circulation of outdoor air in buildings, installed plexiglass barriers at service areas, and added automatic doors and hands-free door openers to campus buildings, Starr said. 

“The campus is ready,” Starr said. “We are ready.”

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