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Penn State Harrisburg plans online instruction through rest of summer, virtual commencement

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Penn State Harrisburg and other Penn State University campuses will continue delivering all instruction remotely throughout the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has announced.

The university also plans to reduce undergraduate tuition for the 2020 summer sessions, subject to the action being approved by the Board of Trustees in May.

Penn State also said it is “planning and operating with the goal of having on-campus courses in the fall semester, if circumstances allow, but no decision has been made at this time.”

“As the world around us has shifted significantly during this ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with this decision, we aim to give our students as much consistency as possible for their academic progress, while also being nimble enough to respond to the best case scenario,” said Nick Jones, Penn State executive vice president and provost. 

“Since the university does not yet know when in-person activities on our campuses can safely resume, we hope that this announcement will set up our students to maintain their planned paths of learning, curricula and critical engagement as they pursue their degrees.”

On another front of great interest to Penn State students at Harrisburg and everywhere else, the university Thursday announced details of a virtual commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 that is to be held beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 9.

Penn State’s first ever virtual commencement, the graduation ceremony will be live-streamed and available internationally, at https://spring2020.commencement.psu.edu/.

The university described the virtual commencement as “the first step” in recognizing achievements of the more than 14,000 members of the Class of 2020.

Penn State also has committed to having students and their families return for in-person celebrations when public health guidelines allow, according to a release posted on the Penn State Harrisburg web site. Potential dates, logistics, and activities for in-person recognition are currently being explored.

The university said that the May 9 ceremony was created in consultation with student leaders. The virtual event is to involve traditional ceremonial components, including formal remarks and conferring of degrees for undergraduate students at University Park and at all other Penn State campuses, as well as for graduate students in The Graduate School.

Regarding plans to reduce tuition for the summer, Penn State said the adjustment is needed “to help ease the sustained financial strain on families” being caused by the pandemic.

The actual amount of the reduction for each student will vary based upon their major and their academic year, the university said. 

Graduate and World Campus students will also see a reduction as they will be billed at 95 percent of the rate of the normal tuition.

“Although this decision will impact the revenue stream for the university, it does not in any way change the focus of our academic mission or the quality of our programs, courses and degrees. Our devoted faculty and staff continue to bring the curricula to life in new and innovative ways and our education outcomes will not change,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron.