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Luther College and Northeast Iowa Community College continue to respond to uncertainty of COVID-19 epidemic

Posted: Sun, May 3, 2020 12:17 PM
Luther President Jenifer K. Ward and NICC President Liang Chee Wee signing an agreement in February to have the two schools cooperate on a social work program for students

When it comes to responding to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic, NICC President Dr. Liang Chee Wee says, "We learn every day."  That comment is echoed by Luther College President Dr. Jenifer Ward.  The two sat down for a video conference Friday with Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce members.

Ward told Chamber members every variable which used to be working in favor of Luther has now disappeared with the coronavirus outbreak.  "These will not be robust (fall) enrollments," she predicted.  She says one new handicap Luther is learning to deal with is the lack of on-campus and in-person visits prospective students make to Decorah and Luther.  She says the college may offer summer campus tours if the situation allows.

Another concern for Dr. Ward is "summer melt."  That's the term used to describe students who commit to coming to college in the fall--but don't show up when classes start.  She says Luther officials don't know what enrollment might look like this fall.

Dr. Wee is slightly more optimistic, pointing out that community colleges often see enrollments increase during times of high unemployment, as workers take classes to improve their training.  Another advantage NICC has, according to Dr. Wee, is that it has already been doing distance learning and is now has already learned the best practices.

Dr. Ward says Luther has also been thinking about how it will operate when students return to campus.  For instance, the college would need some mechanism to monitor health and might also need to set up some isolation spaces.  It might bring back students gradually, but it realizes, as she said, having students return to campus "is what this community needs."

Dr. Wee agrees, saying "We're touching lives--we have to pay attention to that."