Frequently Asked Questions

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Because of the economic hardships facing Pennsylvania and the nation, Penn State has announced plans to freeze in-state and out-of-state tuition rates University-wide for the 2020-21 academic year. The plan, which will be presented to the University’s Board of Trustees for final approval at its July meeting, would mark the third consecutive year that Penn State has held tuition rates flat for Pennsylvania resident students.

For years, Penn State has offered many educational options for students at campuses across the commonwealth within a varied cost structure. Consistent with past course offerings and established tuition rates, and with a focus on the health and safety of our students and their families, the University is leveraging this flexibility to offer additional cost alternatives for the fall 2020 semester based on individual needs. For fall 2020, there are options with varied tuition rates, so that students can continue to make progress toward their degrees:

• Students who come to University Park or any one of our 20 Commonwealth Campuses this fall will have the option to choose from a variety of flexible instructional modes – from in-person course delivery to hybrid and remote learning options. In addition, there will be in-person engagement and co-curricular experiences – with appropriate social distancing and other precautions in place – including Student Affairs services, tutoring, and clubs and organizations. Tuition will be charged at the campus’s standard in-state/out-of-state rate.

• Temporary change of campus location: Students will have access to all of the in-person and remote courses and co-curricular programming offered at their temporary campus that any student may select for any reason for the fall 2020 semester. As such, tuition will be charged at the temporary campus’s standard in-state/out-of-state.

• Temporary change of campus to Penn State World Campus: World Campus offers a portfolio of asynchronous online courses, which feature engagement with peers and faculty built into the course design. Please note, however, that World Campus does not offer the full range of courses available either at University Park or the Commonwealth Campuses, and there is limited capacity in World Campus. Tuition will be charged at the World Campus rate.

Penn State is focused on supporting students and helping them meet educational outcomes regardless of the method of delivery. It is essential that students consult their academic adviser to determine the best option to accommodate their individual needs; shifts in their mode of education could delay their progress toward graduation or mean changes in financial aid, awards, and other differences.

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The University is concerned by the current trends and continuously monitoring state and national disease data and following guidance from state and local health officials. Based on that guidance, and in consultation with faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health, the University is prepared to adjust its approach as necessary, including the possibility that Penn State would need to shift the semester to a fully remote learning environment once again. The University and Governor Wolf have previously stressed the importance of following guidelines to protect community health and minimize the spread of the virus, and cautioned that lax behaviors could undo progress toward reopening campuses.

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Effective July 1, requests for meetings of more than 10 but fewer than 250 participants must submitted for approval to unit executives. With approval, meetings can be scheduled at campuses located in counties that are in the “Green” phase of reopening the Commonwealth, taking into account the maximum occupancy of the meeting room that allows attendees to maintain at least six feet of distance between participants. No large events with more than 249 attendees may be scheduled.

Meeting/event organizers requesting permission for a meeting or event of more than 10 but fewer than 250 participants must:

- Explain how the proposed event is in alignment with the mission of the university;
- Provide justification as to why the meeting or event cannot take place virtually or in a hybrid format (some participants in person and others virtually);
- Provide the total number of individuals attending the meeting or event, which must include the employees working the event;
- Include a plan that outlines how the organizers will meet the state of Pennsylvania’s regulations. Masks and other required PPE must be worn if the event is indoors and plans for abiding by social distancing guidelines must be included;
- Provide evidence that employees requesting to attend the meeting or event have been approved via the Return to Work process. A request must be made to return employees to the workplace at https://sites.psu.edu/returntowork/;
- If the event is on campus, work with the Office of Physical Plant to determine the room capacity that allows for social distancing;
- Keep a list of all attendees, the ‘return to work’ approval status of employees, the locations from which non-employees are traveling, and their telephone numbers for contact purposes.

Events should be scheduled with the full understanding that if the county in which the campus is located moves to the Yellow or Red phase, the guidelines for the county must be followed and the event may need to be cancelled.

At campuses whose counties are in the Yellow or Red phase, no meetings or events with more than 10 attendees may be scheduled. For essential large events expected to have more than 10 attendees at campuses whose counties are in the Yellow or Red phase, approval to hold the event must be sought from Executive Vice President and Provost, Nicholas P. Jones, at provost@psu.edu. All requests must include a description of how social distancing will be maintained at the event.

Meetings that require travel between campuses that are in the Yellow or Red phase, or where participants are from states where cases of COVID-19 are rising, should only be permitted if there are special circumstances and with unit executive approval. All Penn State employees must follow existing travel guidance.

Unit executives should elevate meeting/event requests to the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs if there is uncertainty about whether the meeting/event should be approved.

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The University is developing plans to support the health and safety of all members of the University community. These include enhanced disinfection protocols, universal required masking, and alterations to classroom and office environments that help to ensure social distancing practices. Even with those measures, some employees who are part of vulnerable populations or who have family members who are part of a vulnerable population may have concerns about returning to the workplace.

Staff members who are in this situation and who have concerns about on-site work should make specific requests to alter the nature of their work to their manager.

Employees who believe that they have a disability that necessitates a reasonable accommodation or leave should contact the Affirmative Action Office or Absence Management, as appropriate.

For more information, visit the Return to Work website.

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Faculty who are part of a vulnerable population or who have other challenges with providing in-person instruction at any point during the semester should work with supervisors to determine how adjustments can be made. Additional information and guidance is available and regularly updated at https://keepteaching.psu.edu/fall-2020/. Instructors should also directly review “Instructional Issues for Return to Resident Instruction,” and Return to Work resources for faculty.

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Penn State is prepared to be nimble and responsive based on the latest information, monitoring and evolving virus infection rates. The University will employ strategies to create an effective detection and management system for all of its campuses, including testing, contact tracing, and monitoring and reacting to trends in data at the community, state and national levels to see if a pattern is emerging so leaders can act accordingly.

All classes that are planned to have in-person meetings will have contingency plans for reverting to remote instruction modalities if health circumstances require ending in-person learning earlier than Nov. 20. All future decisions will be based on the best available public-health information, in the interest of the safety and well-being of Penn State students, faculty and staff.

A number of factors may lead to additional distancing measures or adjustments to campus-based residential course delivery. These factors include changes in the virus caseload of a campus or region; a county’s status under the governor’s red-yellow-green guidelines; the capacity of the local health care system; community compliance with health and safety protocols; and additional risks, such as the onset of an early virulent flu season. Faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health are continuously monitoring county, state and local disease data, which will allow the University to respond to any changes in the pandemic that would require proactive steps to mitigate and manage any potential outbreak. Any recorded upticks will be analyzed and, as needed, decisions about the status of in-residence instruction will be made on a campus-by-campus basis, taking into consideration guidance from public health officials.

The University’s 16 task groups focused on responding to the coronavirus have been scenario planning for months. These scenarios necessarily include one in which Penn State must send students home from a campus and revert to remote learning. If our public health advisers become concerned that it is no longer safe for students and employees to be on our campuses, we are prepared to quickly take action and change course.

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​You can find comprehensive FAQs related to Penn State’s plans for a return to campus at https://virusinfo.psu.edu/faq/topic/back-to-state.

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In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health guidelines, wearing face masks and adhering to social distancing practices, including maintaining six feet of physical distance between another person, are critical components in helping to maintain the health and safety of the entire campus community. Students, employees and visitors are required to practice social distancing and wear face masks/coverings when inside campus buildings, including in classrooms, labs, offices, and other public spaces, and the University is expecting that individuals also will wear a mask when outdoors on campus and in the community.

To aid in this effort, the University purchased 500,000 masks to be distributed across all campuses for people who need them. In addition, distance markers, directional arrows, signs and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations, which also will be reconfigured with social-distancing principles in mind. Tables, chairs and lounge furniture will be rearranged and/or blocked for use in some locations, and posting of maximum occupancy and do-not-congregate signs for most areas will become the norm, in accordance with the governor’s higher education guidance.

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By following University and CDC guidelines for masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, students can have a direct impact in achieving an extended return to learning and living on campus this fall. Upon returning to campus, students will be asked to take personal responsibility both on and off campus and to sign a pledge to help uphold the health of the community by following University guidelines.

Mask wearing and social distancing will be required in class, and faculty members will have discretion to make delivery modality adjustments if they have concerns about adherence to University requirements. Faculty members have long had considerable influence over behavior in the classroom, either through informal conversations with students or through grading and class participation polices. Students will be warned first, but faculty will have the authority to remove students from class if they refuse to comply. Where students fail to comply despite these efforts, faculty members can refer students to the University’s conduct process through the Office of Student Conduct, and students will be required to participate in a disciplinary process before they can return to the classroom. Faculty will receive guidance on enforcement, and they will be supported in these critical measures.

To serve as a reminder to all, distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations across the campuses.

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