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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

University COVID-19 response leaves uncertainty among incoming students

In+this+file+photo%2C+incoming+freshmen+at+the+time%2C+Liliana+Hernandez+%28far+right%29%2C+Ilene+Espinoza+%28middle+right%29%2C+Karen+Novarro+%28middle+left%29+and+Citlaly+Romero+%28far+left%29+pose+for+a+photo%2C+Wednesday%2C+June+19%2C+2019%2C+outside+of+the+Undergraduate+Academic+Center+at+Texas+State.+The+four+students+were+apart+of+New+Student+Orientation+Group+23%2C+led+by+counselors+Lola+Santos+and+Christina+Gloria.

In this file photo, incoming freshmen at the time, Liliana Hernandez (far right), Ilene Espinoza (middle right), Karen Novarro (middle left) and Citlaly Romero (far left) pose for a photo, Wednesday, June 19, 2019, outside of the Undergraduate Academic Center at Texas State. The four students were apart of New Student Orientation Group 23, led by counselors Lola Santos and Christina Gloria.

As Texas State’s Undergraduate Admissions Center monitors developments and makes adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic, some incoming students are uncertain about what lies ahead in their first year at the university.
Texas State announced March 19 that it would move classes online for the remainder of the spring semester and suspend on-campus events through May 1.
Those actions didn’t only impact enrolled students. The changes also meant incoming students hoping to attend the April 18 Bobcat Day or campus tours would have to do so virtually. Almost two weeks later, Texas State announced that New Student Orientation would also go virtual.
More uncertainty comes with the status of incoming international students.
Countries around the world are heavily impacted by the spread of COVID-19, inevitably affecting international students planning to attend Texas State. Associate Vice President for Texas State Enrollment Management and Marketing Gary T. Ray said the trouble those students are facing is worrying.
“We are deeply concerned, first, for (international students’) safety and wellness,” Ray said. “Secondly, the biggest barriers we see them facing is the travel bans that are in place.”
Ray said normally when international students are accepted, they are issued a form I-20. The form is then taken by students to a U.S. embassy and used to process a Class F-1 Student Visa, which is required for students to come to the U.S. However, the processes at embassies are being delayed due to concerns over the virus.
“There is a lot of concern about whether or not some of the (international students) will make it (to Texas State),” Ray said. “Some (international students) are asking for deferments until later semesters, and we’re happy to do that; it’s just on a case-by-case basis to where and when the travel bans will be lifted.”
The university put out a FAQ addressing general questions incoming students or their parents may have about adjustments due to COVID-19, including the  extension of the application deadline for fall 2020 admission until Aug. 1, or June 1 for international freshmen.
With ACT and SAT tests canceled through May, some colleges across the nation have decided to go with test-optional admissions, allowing students to decide whether or not they submit their testing scores.
Ray said Texas State implementing something similar will depend on whether or not make-up test dates scheduled for June are canceled.
“We do have contingency plans in that area to use a holistic review, which means (looking at) all of the high school transcripts that (students) have and grades in (courses) to make those admissions decisions,” Ray said. “We’ll make (the decision) as a ‘one-time only’ if those other (ACT and SAT) make-up test dates get canceled.”
Ray said the university removed a rule requiring new transfer students to complete 12 credit hours before qualifying for an online orientation.
The adjustment now allows all transfer students to opt-in to complete an orientation and speak with their adviser to make class selections for the fall semester. Ray said the change is considered temporary.
“The concern we have is for every Bobcat that wants to be here, to try to really make sure that we’ve answered and be responsive,” Ray said. “We want (incoming students) to be encouraged to stay engaged with us, to reach out to us and to let us know their particular circumstance so we figure out how to best work with them.”
Dominick Hernandez, an incoming history freshman currently attending Lehman High School in Kyle, said he has not heard much from the university about the adjustments.
“I’ve been checking my emails, and I’m in a chat with a bunch of (incoming freshmen), and (Texas State) hasn’t really said anything to us; it’s all in the air,” Hernandez said. “We’re just kind of hoping for the best.”
Hernandez said he thinks the in-person orientation would’ve been beneficial to those who aren’t as close to or able to visit the university throughout the year.
“If it was on campus, there (would’ve been) more interaction,” Hernandez said. “(For) a lot of people (that live far), (it is going to be) kind of hard for them to get used to the campus.”
Mia Lucita, incoming pre-nursing freshman, said contact from the university has been non-existent.
“I haven’t gotten anything from Texas State through all of this,” Lucita said. “The only reason I know things is because my boyfriend’s cousin is actually a senior (at Texas State), and she’s graduating, and they postponed her whole graduation—that’s the only reason I know that things have been postponed.”
August events like moving into dorms, Bobcat Preview and walking through the Quad on the first day of the fall semester are all a part of the Texas State freshman experience. But the rapid spread of COVID-19 makes those experiences that seem distant, uncertain, too. Ray said he understands that and hopes that incoming students with concerns reach out to the university.
“We realize that there’s a lot more uncertainty in the process now; that’s why we need to really step up our engagement,” Ray said. “Whether (students) are a current Bobcat or a future Bobcat, we want them to be engaged with us, stay in touch and let us know where they are.”
Individuals concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or the Hays County Local Health Department at 512.393.5520. For additional information about COVID-19, visit the Texas Department of State Health Services or the Centers for Disease Control website.
The University Star’s COVID-19 coverage can be found here.

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