SFA plans for safe spring 2021, nears end of successful fall semester

Classes will continue to be offered in face-to-face, online, livestream, hybrid or hyflex formats, and distancelearning opportunities continue to expand.

NACOGDOCHES – Registration for Spring 2021 at Stephen F. Austin State University begins Monday, Nov. 9, as campus faculty, staff and administrators gear up to offer another safe and highly flexible academic semester.

The spring 2021 semester at SFA is expected to operate much like fall 2020, according to Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president.

“If we continue to do the right things, we will be able to operate as close to normal as possible in the spring,” he said. “Our campus community has been very resilient in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can’t let our guard down now. We will need to continue to pay attention to the three Ws — watching our distance, wearing our masks and washing our hands.”

Spring classes start Friday, Jan. 8. The university decided to begin the spring semester earlier than normal to accommodate for its newer, flexible eight-week sessions. These shortened terms allow students to earn the same number of credit hours for one class in half the amount of weeks as a regular semester.

Students can take both eight-week and traditional 16-week courses at the same time, making it easier for students to fulfill SFA’s “15 to Finish” initiative, which encourages students to take 15 credit hours per semester. This allows students to graduate in less time than the national average and can save a student thousands of dollars during the course of four years.

Delivery methods for spring classes will remain just as flexible as they were in the fall. Classes will continue to be offered in face-to-face, online, livestream, hybrid or hyflex formats, and distance-learning opportunities continue to expand.

Faculty members choose the modality of their courses, and students are able to select the course delivery types that best fit their needs.

“The spring and fall 2020 semesters were a true test of SFA’s ability to evolve on the spot, and our faculty, staff and administrators met that challenge with strength, transitioning thousands of courses to remote learning formats in a matter of weeks,” said Dr. Steve Bullard, SFA provost. “However, we understand students are still dealing with a lot of change and uncertainty, so we continued to expand those offerings throughout the fall and are excited to have versatile course options again in the spring.”

At present, the breakdown of available spring course modalities, including both undergraduate- and graduate-level courses, is 41% hybrid, 31% face-to-face, 21% fully online and 6% livestream.

SFA also will continue to offer test-optional admissions for all 2021 semesters – a decision prompted by the cancellation of SAT and ACT exam administration at testing centers across the state that are struggling to accommodate test participants due to required physical distancing standards.

While the test score requirement is lifted for the admission process, students who were able to take the SAT or ACT are encouraged to submit those scores with their ApplyTexas application as they may be needed in the scholarship review process.

Administrators feel positive about the success of the fall semester, despite steep state-level budget cuts across a number of sectors.

Fall 2020 enrollment numbers were much better than many educational forecasts predicted based on impacts of the pandemic. Fall enrollment at SFA totaled 12,620 students, a decrease of 349 students, or 2.7%. However, there was a 10.7% increase in SFA’s graduate enrollment, from 1,475 students in fall 2019 to 1,633 students in fall 2020.

SFA administrators were especially pleased with fall retention rates, which indicate a potential 7% increase, from 70% in fall 2019 to 77% this fall.

The university will continue to support students and employees in the spring through use of on-campus signage promoting physical distancing guidelines and ways to safely interact with others.

Safety measures implemented in the fall that will continue in the spring include:

· regular sanitizing of high-touch-point areas in all campus buildings

· reduced seating capacity in classrooms to help ensure proper physical distancing based on the room’s square footage

· available use of hand-sanitizing stations in buildings across campus

· touchless service in all dining halls

· and physically distanced workout equipment in the Student Recreation Center to help ensure Lumberjacks continue to have an outlet for mental and physical health.

To learn more, visit the university’s Spring 2021 Guide at sfasu.edu/spring2021.