A new school year always brings stress—but 2020-21 is a different beast entirely. As Minnesota grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, incoming students have adapted to online, in-person, and hybrid classes. And faculty have navigated new educational models while leading graduates into a changed world.
Saint Paul College is uniquely positioned to help students adjust to these new teaching methods. One of the most diverse colleges in Minnesota, the school is proud to offer flexible and affordable higher education that is accessible to all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Among the more than 14,000 students who attend Saint Paul College every year, 63% are first-generation. “Preparing incoming students for new experiences is part of who we are,” says Ryan Mayer, who works in marketing and communications for the community and technical college.
This year, incoming freshmen went through student orientation virtually—a taste of what was to come, with many student services and courses now online. “Our IT department has added additional services and tutorials for students, to remove barriers created by unfamiliar technology,” Mayer says. Academic advisors and other student services are now available through virtual appointments.
Students can look to the class of 2020 to see how Saint Paul College supports graduates. In the throes of the pandemic, alumni can count on free, lifelong access to Career Services. They benefit from career-exploration resources, career-readiness advising, employer connections, and staff support by email, phone, or virtual appointments. Online options have grown due to COVID-19; there’s now a virtual Job Search Club and a live weekly webinar on job searching, as well.
As for classes? Wherever possible, Saint Paul College courses have been moved online to provide maximum flexibility while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19. However, some technical courses call for hands-on work. The school has been offering in-person instruction to those in health services, trade programs, wellness and service-learning programs, and lab-based disciplines—with social distancing and mandatory masks in place.
Other precautions include enhanced cleaning procedures and screening questionnaires that students can fill out online. Staff have set up plexiglass barriers in high-contact areas and removed furniture to improve spaciousness indoors, too.
Ideally, Mayer says, students take this moment to reconsider their approach to higher learning—often infamously expensive. “As one of the most affordable options in the state, taking general courses through Saint Paul College will allow students to continue their academic journey while saving a lot of money,” he notes. “From the college’s perspective, it’s been an opportunity to innovate. Some version of these [remote] services will be part of our operations even after being allowed to open fully.”