COVID-19 Resources and Concerns

What financial and educational resources are and aren’t available at Pierce College amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

These are exceptional times as news of the COVID-19 virus, and responses in our region and across the world continue to evolve,” the Pierce College administration stated in an email to students, faculty and staff on March 11. 

Now, with the college campus closed, students who rely on tutoring, financial aid, Running Start or utilize child care centers find themselves having to adapt to a new norm, one that will indefinitely impact their spring quarter, children and future academic career. 

Pierce College faculty and staff are actively trying to assist as many students as possible by providing online and local resources that are in line with the continuously changing health guidelines, such as social distancing of six feet and refraining from hosting gatherings of more than 10 people.  

While some students come to the Tutoring Center for quick updates on their classes, others attend for long-term supplementary instruction with hopes of testing into a higher class. With the college closing, some are concerned that they won’t be able to get tutoring for the six-week break. That, in turn, will affect their learning. For example, Cecilia Peebles, a Pierce College student who takes an American Sign Language supplementary course said she is worried she won’t be able to retain any of the information she already learned if she can’t receive in-person tutoring.

“Because the interaction is primarily face-to-face, there will most likely be a huge gap in my learning,” Peebles said. “It puts a pause on moving forward in the language, and it’s quite frustrating.”  

Peebles added that while she believes students who participate in the Tutoring Center are dedicated and will strive to continue providing support, she doesn’t know if the Tutoring Center has a resource that will be easily accessible during the break.

However, Tutoring Center program manager Sabrina Stevenson said she is confident that the center will adapt to the changes to meet student needs. “We are working diligently to prepare an online option for students to meet with their tutors,” she said. 

The Tutoring Center will continue to operate virtually and in person throughout spring quarter and close for spring break as scheduled. Students will be able to contact their tutor through phone or email and can participate in online real-time appointments through the Peer Academic Support Success, also known as the P.A.S.S. Canvas Course. Stevenson said she hopes this digital tool will complement distance learning, especially for students taking online only courses for the first time.

Students who rely on the tutoring services aren’t the only ones concerned about the college closing. Important exams such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and the SAT and AP tests have been postponed until late April. This sets back Running Start students who had planned to enroll at Pierce College for fall quarter or wanted to apply for scholarships and four-year universities. The testing facilities prioritize high school seniors, which leaves many juniors who want to apply for scholarships or early enrollment without the opportunity to test for this year.  

The College Board, which schedules and proctors these exams, is working on creating extra test dates and other resources; however, the chances that the tests will be administered online is unlikely. Students can find updates on test cancellations and rescheduling at the College Board Coronavirus Updates page. 

Another challenge with the campus closure is the number of student employees who are without a job. Jenna Fitzgerald, a student who works for the Student Technology Assistance Team, said she is panicked about employment and payment setbacks. “Closing the college is smart, but extremely stressful,” Fiztgerald said. “I can’t get training for my job, and many of my coworkers are concerned because they’re not gonna get paid during this break.” 

Without employment, many students may find themselves unable to support themselves, including paying for their education. Student employees can visit the COVID-19 Communications Center intranet for updates on procedures, telework, and more. Recently, the Senate passed a $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill that will provide payments, expanded unemployment coverage and changes to student loans.

Some students who have young children between the ages of 1 to 5, receive financial aid and/or rely on meals through the K-12 school system may not be able to receive support during this unprecedented time. With the college implementing strict social distancing guidelines, finding replacement resources has been difficult. 

The child care centers at both the Fort Steilacoom and Puyallup campuses will continue to provide care for admitted children and operate at their normal hours of 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., although some limitations have been set in place. “We are going to be following more stringent protocols regarding illness for staff, children and families,” the center stated on its website. “We may be limited for admitting new children for spring quarter.” The Puyallup School District will provide childcare services Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to children of first responders.  

An overarching concern for Pierce College students, faculty and staff is whether students will be able to keep up with their spring quarter classes without interruption, especially those who weren’t prepared to take online classes. 

Pierce College administration reassures students that an academically fulfilling spring quarter lies ahead. “Spring quarter will begin on April 6 as planned,” the college’s executive team stated in an email to students on March 19. “We are finalizing plans for how courses that would normally be taught on campus will be taught remotely, as well as how labs, clinicals, and some technology courses will meet in groups of 10 or less to assure social distancing, in compliance with the Governor’s orders.”  

Pierce College offers a COVID-19 Information Center online that will continue to provide the most recent updates regarding the college and is finalizing plans for spring quarter to continue giving high quality education to students. In the meantime, face-to-face instruction will be postponed until at least April 24. However, student services such as Financial Aid, Veteran Services, Registration and Advising will continue to be accessible to students remotely through phone and email. 

Most services that handle situation specific problems such as financial aid, encourage students to stay updated by checking the Frequently Asked Questions page and to call and leave detailed messages, so staff can answer their questions or concerns.  “All of our support services are available online, and certain core functions like the cashier and financial aid are available on-campus with an appointment,” Pierce College stated on its website. New hours of operation and contact information for these services are posted on Pierce College’s COVID-19 Student Support Center page. 

“We are impressed with the resiliency and dedication of our students, and we promise to do our best to help you reach your goals,” the Pierce College Executive Team stated in an email. “We look forward to a rather unprecedented but highly successful spring quarter.”

Do you qualify to receive money during the coronavirus outbreak?

Read the abridged F.A.Q. by The New York Times, which answers common questions about the historic $2.2 trillion emergency relief package the Senate passed on March 25 to support millions of Americans during this economic downturn. For more information, please visit The New York Times F.A.Q. on stimulus checks and the unemployment and coronavirus bill.

How large would the payments be?

Most adults would get $1,200, although some would get less. For every child age 16 or under, the payment would be an additional $500.

How many payments would there be?

Just one. Future bills could order up additional payments, though.

How do I know if I will get the full amount?

It depends on your income. Single adults with Social Security numbers who are United States residents and have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less would get the full amount. Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less would receive a total of $2,400. And someone filing as head of household would get the full payment if they earn $112,500 or less.

Above those income figures, the payment decreases until it stops altogether for single people earning $99,000 or married people earning $198,000.

In any given family and in most instances, everyone must have a valid Social Security number. There is an exception for members of the military.

You can find your adjusted gross income on line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax return.

Do college students get anything?

Not if anyone claims them as a dependent on a tax return. Usually, students under age 24 are dependents in the eyes of the taxing authorities if a parent pays for at least half of their expenses.

Would I have to apply to receive a payment?

No. If the Internal Revenue Service already has your bank account information, it would transfer the money to you via direct deposit based on the recent income-tax figures it already has.

When would they arrive?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he expected most people to get their payments within three weeks.

If my payment doesn’t come soon, how can I be sure that it wasn’t misdirected?

According to the bill, you would get a paper notice in the mail no later than a few weeks after your payment has been disbursed. That notice would contain information about where the payment ended up and in what form it was made. If you couldn’t locate the payment at that point, it would be time to contact the I.R.S. using the information on the notice.