As New Jersey schools forge plans to return students to classrooms in the fall, Bergen Community College announced it will move most of its fall classes online and freeze its tuition rates to keep students safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Come Sept. 2, when classes at the college are set to resume, most of Bergen Community College’s classes will be held online, the college announced in a statement. Only practice-based classes, such as those in the health track, will be held in person, according to the statement. Only paramedic science program practicals will be held at the college’s Lyndhurst campus. There will be no classes at the college’s Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack.
Additionally, the college’s tuition rates will be frozen to make the school more affordable for those hoping to attend.
“In working with a task force of two dozen faculty, staff and students, we reviewed the latest guidelines from public health agencies, the state and county before finalizing our plans for safety, instruction and support,” Tony Ross, the college’s interim president, said in the statement. “This preparation has positioned the college to offer the same renowned Bergen quality students would receive in a traditional campus environment.”
The college’s announcement comes as schools across the country grapple with how to return students to classrooms safely, as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Rutgers University announced on Monday that the majority of its classes will be online and on-campus housing will be limited. Princeton University also plans to put restrictions in place by having students alternate when they can take classes in person, based on their academic year.
At Bergen Community College, like many other schools, classes that will still be held in person will abide by strict safety measures, including reduced class sizes, enhanced cleaning protocols and spaced seating, the statement said.
The college is also looking into how to help those affected by the Monday announcement from the federal government that international students whose classes are entirely online will not be able to stay in the country. On Monday, U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement announced the changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that would bar nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online from staying in the United States.
The Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester, the announcement said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not allow these students to enter the country.
In response, Bergen Community College is discussing providing in-person or hybrid-model classes for these students, according to the statement.
The announcement comes as New Jersey’s 2,500 public schools ready plans to reopen for the fall semester as the pandemic rages on, abiding by a list of sweeping guidelines released by Gov. Phil Murphy. Students returning to schools will stay six feet apart in classrooms and on buses, lunch times will be staggered and teachers will be required to wear masks, according to the guidelines.
New Jersey’s first major coronavirus testing site is located on Bergen Community College’s main campus in Paramus, where thousands of people have been tested for the virus since it opened March 20. Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, who continues to oversee mobile testing sites across the county, applauded the college’s decision, saying it was the safe call.
“The college’s transition to online courses for the fall semester reflects the difficult reality of COVID-19,” Tedesco said in a statement. “An ever-changing situation, the uncertainty of COVID-19 demands proactive responses. This decision is one that places the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and community members at the forefront.”
A full list of available classes can be seen at bergen.edu/register. The college will provide a guide for the fall semester that will have information on all safety procedures and protocols.