Notes from PA Statewide College Access call re COVID-19

Posted by PA Statewide College Access Network on March 24, 2020

[Thanks to Kim McCurdy of PACAC for these notes and permission to share them. These are rough updates on how the college admissions community in PA is responding to COVID-19.]

PSCAN Digest – March 17, 2020
Attendees from around the state included: Thom Butler, PCPR; Alyssa Dobson, PASFAA and Slippery Rock University; Mike Dotts, PA Department of Ed; Wendy Dunlap, WPACSR and PHEAA; Bob Freund, PCAC; Myrna Fuchs, Olivet Boys and Girls Club; Oneda Horne, Philadelphia Futures; Emily Krall, PCAC; Kaitlin Irvine, SummerSearch Philadelphia; Christen Johnson, Philadelphia Futures; Hillary Kane, PHENND; Patty Landis, PA Department of Ed; Kim McCurdy, PACAC and PA Department of Education; Mary Smith, PACAC and Gettysburg College; Sarah Wasch, Field Center.


After introductions I mentioned the questions below and opened up a dialogue concerning the virus, issues and concerns to elevate, resources that are available, etc. I’ve tried to capture our conversation below.

Questions for discussion: How can we support each other? Are there best practices that anyone can share? What are the needs of our students during this challenging time? How can we collectively help each other? Action steps?

PACAC Updates: Mary provided the update that PACAC College Fairs and Professional Development programming for March and April have been cancelled. There is an ongoing evaluation of future programming beyond that and it depends where things go in the next few weeks. They are looking at providing virtual programming through Adobe; perhaps working on a virtual college fair;

Phone resources from home: *67 – Alyssa shared that if you dial *67 on your phone before calling students/parents back from your personal devices it will mask the number. This is important if you don’t have work equipment as you work at home.

Oneda shared that Philly Futures has a google voice phone number – you can download the google voice app to your phone and get a number that will match the area code you’re calling from. You can communicate to your students that you’ll be in touch via that number so they can look for it and answer the call. PCPR shared that they also use the google voice function.

Service to colleagues: Thom mentioned that it’s great we’re meeting, but what about others who need this information. The purpose of PSCAN is to connect statewide on what’s happening and then to trickle down the information to your networks in your regions. There are organizations that are pushing out information to networks hourly – how can we make sure we’re all in the know.

Definitely connect with places like the ACCEPT Group on Facebook. NACAC puts out emails and their website is full of information about changing deadlines and lists of resources –; also NASFAA –;; We’re going to put together information for the PACAC website –; additionally, please let me know if you have pertinent information to get out to our network and I’m happy to pass that along –; my work email address is I will also make sure everyone has access to our list on the google drive if you want to just copy and paste the list in an email. Mary and I will work on an Alias that we can use for emails. – please visit this resource for the latest updates on COVID-19.

PHEAA – State Grant and Special Programs are looking at deadlines, what to do with forms and additional information requests if students cannot get them back to PHEAA because they don’t have postage until they go back to school or their community program, distance education guidance, State Work Study. They will have direction by March 23.

School Counselors advising students: It was mentioned that school counselors might be telling senior high school students that they won’t be starting school in the fall so they don’t need to worry about their FAFSA, deadlines, etc. We all agreed that this is premature and definitely not something we want to be spreading around. We would like to send messaging to school counselors through PHEAA’s Access Partners or through PACAC that school counselors should encourage students to complete their FAFSA prior to May 1 and continue to work on their plans to attend in the fall. We want to be positive with our students and not contribute to stress and anxiety they are most assuredly feeling.

Test optional schools: It was mentioned that with cancellation of SATs, we may see more schools moving toward test-optional admissions. Mansfield University announced on social media that they would be moving in this direction. Other schools may follow suit. Stay tuned.

Admission deposits: Schools are looking at how they can assist students who will be depositing during this time. Many schools have policies in place for 0 EFC students or low-income students, and many schools have unwritten policies that if students ask, the deposit can be waived. Encourage students to contact schools and ask these questions if they are impacted and cannot make deposit payments, understanding that schools may take a little longer to get back with them.

Broadband/Wifi access/Resources: Many companies are offering free services for families – Comcast, Charter Communication/Spectrum, Uhaul for storage. The Hope Center has put out a document with some of these resources – Please share broadly.

Foster Youth: Sarah shared to remember your vulnerable populations including foster youth during campus closures, etc. She also shared the following listing from California that might be helpful when assisting foster youth.

Financial Aid Offers: There was some discussion about delayed financial aid offers for students who have been accepted to college. It was noted by both private and public institutions on the call that many offers were sent since November to students who were accepted and for more selective universities, the award offers have been included with the acceptance letters that are going out to students now. Encourage students to contact the financial aid office at their post-secondary institution if they haven’t received an award offer, but they feel they should have – or if they have questions about a current offer they have already received. Additionally, federal work study student employees are still allowed to be paid while universities are closed. For the latest information, consult Federal Student Aid or the US Department of Education

Mental health: I asked the group about how you’re encouraging students and tending to students mental health. Are there resources your group is offering. Hillary mentioned that AmeriCorps students have access to 24 hour support. Philly Futures is trying to address socio-emotional support and reduce learning loss through remote learning. They are trying to provide normalcy and continuity of programming through online classes that would have been available in person such as SAT Prep and Financial Literacy. Students are given access to platforms and are allowed to practice them. They are given tips about setting up a quiet workspace at home. Some of the teachers are setting up online discussion groups, providing an article that everyone can discuss.

PCPR update: Thom shared that their professional development has also moved online (since cancelled). They have postponed an FSA session and a financial aid offer session which will both be moved online. Their April awards gala has been postponed until at least June. They are still planning to move forward to their June in-person meeting to look at PCPR from a governance standpoint. PCPR and PACAC will also be presenting at the PACAC Conference in June on PSCAN – that is still scheduled at this time. PCPR is also planning on hosting their Forum in mid to late August at Chestnut Hill College in the Sugarloaf building. The theme will be around women’s achievements in college access and success.

PACAC is working on a pre-conference session for June called Empowering Women and there could be some synergies between the two efforts.

Admissions practices online: There is stress for students who cannot get out to visit postsecondary schools at this time. Please work toward making campus visits available virtually from your website (if you don’t already have that) and work with SLATE and Zoom and other platforms to be able to conduct sessions about your college productively for students.

Collective impact statement: Thom and his task force have been working on whether to have a Collective Impact Statement for this group and have decided they feel it would be beneficial moving forward. I was tasked with looking at resources that might already be available on this. MCAN has some great reports. There is a larger report and a smaller one. You can find the reports here:

Philadelphia Futures: If you have any junior students you’re advising about the SAT, please let Oneda know and she can get you the resources they have to share.

Census information: One thing I didn’t mention is the Census concern regarding students who are living at home when they would have been counted at the school they were attending. Guidance has come out that students should still be counted at the college or university where they were living prior to going home due to the closedown. Information can be found here:

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