The front of University of South Carolina’s student union, Russell House sits at the heart of campus. Credit: Landon Stamper
High school seniors Megan Eubanks and Addie Stamper lost the end of high school due to COVID-19, but now face the possibility of losing the beginning of college.
In an April 24 memo, University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen said, “While we do not yet know the full financial impact of COVID-19 on our normal operations, one thing is certain: normal will look different in the future.”
University of South Carolina officials said key decisions about the fall semester – including whether students will return to campus or continue classes online – are expected to be announced between May 15 and June 15.
Eubanks hasn’t been in a classroom for over a month. The senior from Greenville will be a freshman at the University of South Carolina in the fall.
“I’m not going to lie, it sucks. I’ve been waiting for these two months my whole life,” she said.
In the fall, she wants to major in marine science and one day work in marine biology. She also hopes to play the piccolo for the Carolina Band.
Eubanks said she’d be “devastated” if she wasn’t able to start college on campus, but would still take classes if school goes online in order to stay busy and on track to graduate in May 2024.
“I don’t want it to come between what I want to do,” she said. “I’d be heartbroken, but eventually I’d just deal with it,” Eubanks said.
Addie Stamper, a high school senior from Kernersville, North Carolina, is expecting to start her college career at UofSC in the fall, with plans to major in exercise science.
Stamper said UofSC has been her first choice school for years. Her brother, Landon, is a graduating senior and her mother, Tara, received her a master’s degree from the school.
“I hope coronavirus doesn’t affect the fall semester too much,” Stamper said. “I’m really looking forward to football games, tailgates and rushing, so I hope everything will be back to normal by then.”
Tara Stamper, Addie’s mother, never expected her children’s senior years – one in high school and one in college – would be so disrupted this way.
“I was anticipating a senior soccer season with Addie, attending two graduations and all of these senior-type events that have now either been cancelled or suspended,” she said.
Since the Stamper’s live out-of-state, Tara has some concerns about the reality of her daughter enrolling at UofSC if the fall semester’s classes are online.
“I would have a hard time paying an out-of-state tuition for her to be here [at home] doing solely online learning,” Tara Stamper said. “I think we would have a serious conversation about perhaps staying here and just doing online school at a local community college, versus being enrolled in the university.”
“I think it would be a hard decision, deciding between if I would still want to go there as opposed to just doing online work at a community college. I feel like I would probably still end up going though,” Addie Stamper said.
In an email addressing students and their families on April 22, President Caslen said the university is working with the Department of Education to distribute funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. This funding gives cash grants to students who have had disruptions in their education due to COVID-19.
“The Act says we have up to a year to distribute these funds, but we feel it is best to do so as soon as possible,” he said in the email.
In early April university administration created a Future Planning Group, or FPG, to the community’s questions about the Fall 2020 semester. The group has seven committees: academics and research; admissions and enrollment; communications; finance; Gamecock athletics; public health; and public safety.
Caslen said the FPG is planning for best, most likely and worst-case scenarios. “We will continue to consider every plausible scenario,” he said.
“I want you to know that nothing will make me happier than having our students back on campus. We miss them terribly and can’t wait to have them back,” he said.