The latest virtual town hall hosted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) began with a calm but sober assessment by host Flavius Lilly, PhD, MA, MPH, associate vice president, Academic and Student Affairs. "I've been at UMB for the past 10 years," he said, "and never in that time did I think we would have a spring semester where there were no students on campus."
More than 150 students took part in the conversation on April 2, joined by expert panelists Patty Alvarez, PhD, assistant vice president, Student Affairs; Emilia K. Petrillo, LCSW-C, executive director, Student Counseling Center; Irma Robins, MBA, JD, deputy general counsel; Jordan Nixon, MBA, bursar; and Scott Bitner, MBA, CPA, senior associate vice president and deputy chief financial officer.
The panel fielded questions on topics ranging from updating vaccinations, to commencement, to parking fees, but the most urgent questions seemed to focus on what soon-to-be graduates will face in the weeks ahead during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
"I am wondering what the administration at the University level is doing to address the number of students who are in professional programs from nursing to pharmacist to social workers to ensure that when we graduate — many of us this May — we can pursue licensing given the fact that many of the exam centers are closed," asked social work student Julia Dowling.
Lilly replied that similar issues also face student admissions, where GRE and other exams are required. "What we're starting to see is some innovation on the part of those licensing exam boards in the way that they're going to do in-home proctoring," he said. "So this is really a matter of advocacy I think on the part of the University with the licensing boards to come up with novel ways of doing the licensing examinations."
Another social work student, Emily Allen, expressed the concerns many have about the deteriorating job market and how that will impact her health insurance. "For those of us who are graduating and we're all having trouble finding work because of the hiring freeze that's kind of widespread, and a lot of places are either letting people go or furloughing, is there any option to extend insurance coverage through the school? Because I know my health insurance is going to lapse," she said.
"Students enrolled in the student health insurance plan, their plan terminates on July 31," Alvarez explained. "Termination of coverage is considered a qualifying event, so you could look at the Maryland health care market and secure an individual plan."
Many students, like School of Dentistry student Rula Amarin, expressed concerns about fees and refunds. "A lot of our tuition is reflected ... more than half of it is for clinical hours. So how will the refund affect us, especially since a lot us have taken out loans to pay for this semester?" she asked.
Bitner described the process by which the University determined appropriate refunds. "When deciding on the refunds, we reached out to all of the schools," he explained. "There were no school-specific program-related fees identified to be refunded. They were at the auxiliary level, such as parking and housing. For any questions related to program-specific fees, I recommend that you contact the dean's office."
Although every question posed to the panel was answered in the nearly hourlong program, Lilly was sure to remind the audience in the end to continue to work through the challenges and remember, “If you need us, we’re here.”
Watch the entire town hall program by accessing the video below.