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Spring Term FAQ

Updated May 11, 2020

Classes will be exclusively taught online for the spring term for both graduate and undergraduate students.

Every spring term course will have a site in the Caltech learning management system, Moodle. On that site you will find your syllabus with course policies and course schedule with due dates, as well as links to any other sites or resources you will need. A dedicated website has been created to provide resources and guidance to help instructors transition to online teaching. That website, teach.caltech.edu, offers tools such as Zoom video conferencing and Box filesharing and storage. Caltech recently extended its Zoom license to cover its entire academic community.

Caltech Accessibility Services for Students will remain available to support students with documented needs.

Spring term officially begins Monday, March 30. Faculty have been asked to defer the start of required class meetings and assignments until Monday, April 6. Moodle course sites will have essential information about courses (syllabus, links to resources), and will be open to students on Monday, March 30.

In accordance with Los Angeles County's "Safer at Home" order, only essential functions will continue at Caltech. Those functions include: distance learning and the operation of student housing and dining facilities; custodial, security, payroll, and student wellness services; and the maintenance and management of laboratories and facilities with unique agents and equipment.

For additional details, please see the "Safer at Home" Order update of March 19, 2020.

Caltech's tuition remains unchanged, and Caltech's learning experience is of the highest standards, regardless of format. Your faculty members and administrators are working diligently to ensure that the Institute's curricula translate as seamlessly as possible to an online learning experience.

Grading for online classes will still be as rigorous and fair as it is for in-person classes. However, if you are concerned, you will have the option to take any course during the spring term pass/fail.

We are not reducing the tuition and mandatory fees. We plan to offer classes online and give the same credit toward degree completion as if they were taken in the classroom on campus. The mandatory fees are used to support a wide variety of campus and student affairs services.

In order to continue the high quality, in-depth education that is a hallmark of Caltech, and to support students' progress toward their degrees, faculty and instructors are planning to teach already-scheduled spring term courses. However, there may be a few courses that cannot be moved online. We will work with you to ensure that you are able to take those courses at a later date. If you are graduating and need a course to complete requirements but the course is one of the few that cannot be offered online, we will work with you to provide an alternative option.

Yes, but registration changes are not accepted in any form at this time. This includes email and registration cards from students or faculty. Registration will re-open in REGIS at a later date along with any course offering updates related to the conversion of courses to online format. Students and faculty will be sent the dates in advance once determined. The Registrar's Office asks for your patience during this transition to a more streamlined and convenient process. Please note that advisors will still need to approve their advisees' schedule changes to ensure they are appropriate.

Yes. Students will register themselves online, but they are still expected to have remote conversations with their advisors about any desired change prior to making schedule adjustments. Advisors will be given instructions on how to approve their advisee's schedule changes. If not approved, they may request that the schedule be modified. Therefore, it will be integral that advisees speak with their advisors prior to making changes. Registration will re-open in REGIS at a later date. Students and faculty will be sent that date in advance once it is determined, and that will provide time to discuss any desired changes.

Yes. The option to pass/fail courses will be offered as a choice to students for all classes taken this spring term only. For courses taken this term on pass/fail grading, grading scheme requirements will be waived for Core and option requirements.

Individual faculty consent for the pass/fail option will be waived for this spring term only. Once online registration is reopened, students will be able to change their grading scheme in REGIS. Registration will re-open in REGIS at a later date. Students and faculty will be sent that date in advance once it is determined. The Registrar's Office asks for your patience during this transition to a more streamlined and convenient process.

The intention of this temporary pass/fail option is to is to help ensure academic success in extraordinary circumstances. We ask for students and advisors not to view this as an opportunity to take advantage of it with more demanding course requirements but rather as an accommodation to assist with unfamiliar online course expectations and assessments.

The pass/fail course limits will not be enforced for spring term, and units selected for pass/fail during this term will not count towards the 90 unit pass/fail limit for the BS degree.

If a student doesn't feel that online learning is appropriate for them, then they have the option to take a leave. All classes will be online in the spring, so we are unable to offer an alternative.

If there are challenges due to disabilities, the Institute is committed to helping students with disabilities to make this a better experience. Students who are registered with Caltech Accessibility Services should contact the office with their concerns.

Undergraduate students who would prefer to take a leave for the spring term are welcome to do so via the standard process, by filling out the Undergraduate Student Leave Form.

Graduate students should see the Sabbatical/Leave of Absence procedures on the Graduate Studies Office website.

Underload petitions from undergraduate students will be handled as usual. Information can be found on the Dean's Office website.

Graduate Students should see the Underload form on the Graduate Studies Office website.

The Financial Aid Office will disburse aid awarded for third term on March 24. For the majority who will be off-campus, Caltech will not be charging room and board for third term. For these students, the financial aid budget includes an allowance for off-campus living expenses which is equivalent in amount to the room and board charges.

Students receiving financial aid in excess of tuition and fees will have these living expense funds disbursed to their bursar account; they will appear as a credit balance on their bill. These funds can be withdrawn and used for living expenses while attending Caltech online and living away from campus during third term. Information about how to do this is available on the Financial Aid website.

The funds students will receive are based on the assumption that students are enrolled full time for the entire term. If a student's enrollment status changes after March 24, and the student goes on leave for third term or withdraws from Caltech, the Financial Aid Office will need to recalculate the financial aid based on the amount of time a student was enrolled. If a student is not planning to return third term and aid was disbursed on March 24th, they should not request a refund for the credit balance on their student account.

Caltech will support and enable all graduating seniors and graduate students to finish their programs, providing additional assistance to meet requirements where possible, and waivers of requirements where necessary and appropriate.

Outstanding physical education requirements for graduating seniors have been waived. As possible, we will work with you to find ways to remotely satisfy outstanding class requirements with a laboratory component.

With appreciation for the significance of this milestone ceremony, in recognition of the disruption the novel coronavirus has had on our lives, and following close consultation with representatives from your graduating class, we have restructured the June commencement ceremony into a two-part celebration for the 2020 graduates. First, the Institute will hold a virtual degree conferral and graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12; then, at a later date, the Institute will hold an in-person celebration for the 2020 graduates.

More information about the virtual event, including information about how to connect and the checklist for graduates, can be found in the May 11 message from Joseph E. Shepherd, Vice President for Student Affairs.

Undergraduate students are required to leave student housing by Friday, March 20, at 4 p.m. The Undergraduate Dean's office has created a form for students to petition to remain on campus: https://deansoffice.wufoo.com/forms/petition-to-remain-on-campus/ We will evaluate and reply as quickly as possible as requests come in.

Students may petition to remain on campus if they:

  • have a documented health condition that puts them at risk for travel;
  • live in a home community that poses a serious health risk;
  • have concerns about international travel;
  • or have concerns around housing insecurity.

Students who have financial concerns about the cost of leaving campus should be in touch with the deans (deansoffice@caltech.edu).

Although graduate student housing will remain open, we remind you to follow public health guidance on hygiene and social distancing.

We ask that you take with you as many of your belongings as reasonably possible, especially all valuables, any necessary medications, an adequate supply of clothing, books, your laptops and other electronics, etc.

The rest of your belongings will be securely stored at Brown gym. We will have boxes available in each house/building's first floor lounge. Any belongings you wish to leave should be packed in these boxes, and the boxes should be clearly labeled with your name and UID and placed in your building's lounge.

From March 14 to March 20, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., all packed and properly labeled boxes will be taken by a maintenance crew to the Brown gym for storage. No loose items will be stored (lamps, couches, etc.); everything must be boxed.

Please do not leave anything else behind. If there is anything you do not want, make sure it is placed in trash cans or dumpsters.

If you have already left campus and left items behind but are still in the Pasadena area, you may come and retrieve them before March 20. If you are not in the Pasadena area, we will pack up anything you have left for you, and label it by room. It will be stored securely at Brown gym.

You will be refunded a prorated amount for your Caltech Student Housing room and board. You will not pay room and board for time you are not on campus.

Read the FAQs and other communications on the Caltech Coronavirus Information webpage. If you have additional questions, contact Caltech online here.