March 4, 2021
Dear Pacific students, faculty and staff:
Amazingly, we are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of when – like much of American higher education – University of the Pacific transitioned our learning, teaching and working from our three campuses to largely remote environments. Despite the unprecedented health, social, cultural, financial and technological challenges COVID-19 has presented during this difficult time, Pacific has successfully continued our mission of teaching and developing the next generation of leaders at the highest levels. And that is because of the extraordinary efforts of all of you – our talented and hard-working students, our passionate and creative faculty and our selfless and tireless staff. As we have faced these previously unimaginable obstacles, Pacific is stronger than ever because of you. We are, indeed, Pacific Proud. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.
Now, we can finally see light at the end of this dark tunnel. Since the first COVID-19 vaccinations started 11 weeks ago, 15 percent of the U.S. population has received these life-saving shots. More than 1.7 million shots are being administered each day, and that pace continues to accelerate as state and local governments and health care companies refine the distribution process. Here at Pacific, thanks to the leadership of Provost Maria Pallavicini and the Pacific COVID Council, our university has vaccinated several thousand Pacificans already, including our front-line health care workers, first-responders, clinical-based faculty and health professional students, and colleagues 65 and over, in accordance with guidelines from our counties. We now have started to vaccinate Pacific employees who have been required to report to the Stockton and San Francisco campuses, and we are working with health officials in Sacramento County to do the same on our Sacramento campus. We will continue to push for as many vaccines as we can for all of our community members on all three campuses.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 rates continue to steadily decline across all three of our communities. COVID rates are back to where they were in June, before the major spikes experienced during the summer and at the beginning of winter. We will continue to closely monitor those trends, but right now they are extremely encouraging. You can monitor the county-based COVID dashboards at San Joaquin County, Sacramento County and San Francisco County. You also can follow the COVID specifics on our three campuses on our comprehensive Pacific COVID Dashboard.
Given the great progress in these early weeks of 2021 on both the vaccines and the coronavirus rates, we are now confident that we will be able to largely re-open our three campuses by the time Fall semester begins. That means most courses will return to our physical classrooms, labs, clinics and studios, students will return to our residence halls, and most of our services, co-curricular activities and events will be reinstated to being in-person.
Of course, as we have all learned, COVID-19 can be cruelly unpredictable, so we will continue to closely monitor trends and follow the scientific and regulatory guidance of federal, state and county health experts. We will be ready for any contingency. Additionally, we will resist the temptation of opening too soon. We will remain in our current, largely remote learning and working environments through the spring semester and will make determinations on summer as we get closer. As always, our decision-making will be predicated on science, facts and the health and welfare of our Pacific community. When we do return, we will do so with the appropriate safeguards in place.
While the physical and mental health of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority, we also have been laser focused on the financial health of our institution. Universities nationwide have been hit hard financially by the pandemic. The Chronicle of Higher Education estimates that COVID-19 has cost U.S. higher education $183 billion in added health, safety and technology costs and revenue lost from housing, dining, tuition, fees and other sources.
Our financial condition at Pacific, however, is much stronger than many U.S. colleges and universities because of the superb efforts of our faculty and staff to keep enrollment strong and because of very real personal sacrifices they have made. All Pacific employees gave up their full university retirement contributions for the entire fiscal year (July 1 through June 30) to mitigate the financial impact on our students. Furthermore, staff have picked up added workload created by a cost-savings hiring freeze, many faculty have taught additional classes, some staff worked reduced hours and top university executives took yearlong salary reductions. These very real and personal sacrifices by faculty and staff – coupled with other cost-cutting measures across the university – have allowed us to minimize the burden on our students and their families, allowing us to cap tuition increases for next year to a maximum of 2.5 percent – the lowest percent increase of undergraduate tuition at Pacific in more than 50 years. Similarly, room and board increases were kept to an average of 2.4 percent. And there will be no increases to any fees. At the same time, we know that even these increases can adversely impact students and their families who have been hit hard by COVID. That is why Pacific has established a fund to help mitigate changes in financial circumstances for the new academic year. Students can learn more by visiting https://www.pacific.edu/financial-aid/appeals.
Finally, a word about our summer plans. In the spirit of our safe and responsible approach to returning to our campuses, our current plan is to offer a robust set of all-online courses for Summer I and Summer II for undergraduate and graduate students. While the Pacific learning experience is based on in-person teaching and learning, we know most of our students are not on our campuses during the summer months. We hope these online courses will provide students more flexibility as they progress towards their degrees. But we also hope to have a very different Summer Session III experience. If conditions allow, we plan to invite students back to the Stockton campus early (starting July 19) to connect and engage in both academic and co-curricular activities throughout Summer III. We think this is a particularly important opportunity for our rising sophomores, who have yet to experience on-campus living and learning. But we also will invite our returning students as well as our new first-time students, who may want to get a head start on their learning and their Pacific college experience – especially since most of them have had to navigate 16 months of living and learning in isolation from their friends and classmates. Our Financial Aid Office is carving out special funding for financially eligible undergraduate and graduate students to help with the tuition and housing costs of Summer III. As with our Fall semester plans, our Summer III approach will be predicated on the latest scientific and health guidelines and vaccination rates.
As always, please reach out if you have any questions. And if possible, try to attend one of our regular Conversations with President Callahan.
Thank you all. And, please, get your vaccination as soon as you are eligible!
Stay well. Stay safe. And Go Tigers!