Congratulations on navigating a challenging year. I am grateful for our faculty’s hard work, adaptability, and creativity in these tough pandemic times. The coming availability of vaccines gives me optimism that next year we will begin to return to normality.
Last week we received a reminder of how meaningful it can be to work in public higher education. The think tank Education Reform Now ranked UCF second in the nation in social mobility, based on the success of students eligible for Pell grants. A related Inside Higher Ed article noted that UCF enrolls more Pell-eligible students than all 12 Ivy League-plus schools combined; in fact, we enroll 55 percent more.
I hope that you share my pride in this achievement. We are on a trajectory to be a leading public university that pairs research prominence with a determination to ensure the success of students of all backgrounds.
We plan to add more in-person classes in the spring. We know that the campus experience is important for student success, and this fall’s experience showed that our pandemic policies have worked well. No cases of COVID were traced back to our classrooms.
About 3,100 spring sections will have an on-campus component, compared to 2,100 this fall and 5,600 last spring. Many large classes, of course, need to be remote, because of limited classroom capacity given physical distancing. Around 275 instructors have been exempted from on-campus teaching because of documented conditions that the CDC says places them or a household member at increased risk from COVID complications.
Students will be encouraged to self-quarantine before returning to campus for the spring semester, and all housing residents will be tested before classes begin on January 11. Random testing will continue during the spring semester.
While we are planning for more on-campus classes, we are also prepared to pivot to more remote teaching, if needed. If this becomes necessary, please remember the Faculty Toolkit, updated with much helpful advice about remote teaching.
We expect recurring reductions from the state. We have been setting aside funds from colleges and administrative units to strategically invest in the academic core. However, we may need to use at least some of the investment fund to deal with state cuts.
We will know more about the budget picture as the legislature’s annual spring session unfolds.
The year 2020 also brought good to UCF. Those include a dynamic new president in Dr. Alexander Cartwright, record research funding, and highs for the diversity, quality and success of our student body.
We saw proof of success, including student outcomes in social mobility, retention, graduation, and graduate indebtedness, that place us among the top 50 public national universities. We have taken important steps toward better budget transparency, and improving operations, and I hope to begin to see the results soon.
Happy holidays, stay safe, and let’s look forward to a better and brighter New Year.