COVID-19 FAQs for Graduate and Professional Students
Q: Can I extend my time-to-degree [or time to candidacy] if COVID-19 interrupted my coursework or research and scholarly activities?
A: The Graduate Associate Deans have been asked to provide and encourage exceptions and extensions related to college/school/program rules for individual students when justified by the circumstances of spring semester. Further guidance was provided in a message to all graduate students on June 2. We cannot guarantee how an individual faculty member, program, department, or college/school will evaluate student progress in relation to the changes of this semester, but there is no reason to believe it is in any of those parties’ interest to not be considerate and accommodating of those circumstances. Students who believe they have been treated unfairly in this area should consult with (in order and as appropriate) their advisor, advising committee, graduate program director, department chair, graduate associate dean, or dean. The Office of Graduate Education and Life also can provide consultations and advice. If a student believes that an academic sanction has been unfairly imposed, the student may file an appeal.
Q: Will lack of access to University facilities or to off-campus internships or field placements change my degree requirements?
A: These issues are best handled by the individual programs. Many of these requirements come from national accrediting bodies. Requirements and approved modifications to these requirements are currently in a state of flux for many programs. We have already seen some modifications in requirements that will facilitate degree completion for students in some programs, but students in other programs may be delayed due to lack of access to required in-person activities.
Funding and Costs
Q: Is there any funding available to support my costs?
A: Students may file a Family Contribution Appeal to be considered for funding through the We are Stronger Together Scholarship. The Student Financial Aid Office coordinates the allocation process and more information can be found here: https://financialaid.wvu.edu/applying-for-aid/family-contribution-appeal.
Q: Can I find work with the University?
A: Students can search for an on-campus job by logging into Handshake with their WVU Login username and password.
Q: Does the University have a plan to fund all graduate students for the summer?
A: Many graduate students would not have summer funding even without the COVID-19 disruption. It is not feasible for WVU to provide summer positions for all graduate and professional students (or even all graduate and professional students who had GA positions in the spring).
Graduate and professional students may apply for Stitzel Emergency funding. In addition, students whose financial circumstances have changed should contact Student Financial Services to modify their FAFSA, which may allow them to obtain additional loan money. International students with financial need should contact the Office of Global Affairs.
Q: Will the University waive fees for the summer term?
A: While some of the resources that the University fees cover are not currently available (e.g., PRT, Rec Center), others do remain available (e.g., counseling services, library services), even if remotely, and costs associated with others (e.g., custodial and maintenance staff; infrastructure repairs) persist. Additionally, as we move into summer, there is the chance that some services not currently available will begin to re-emerge. There are always services the University must provide to students, but the mix of those specific services and/or the form they take can change depending on our mode of operation (e.g., on campus, online). The University fees allow us to maintain those services to best serve our students.
Q: What will happen to my summer graduate assistantship (GA)?
A: Many GA positions are designed up front to last for only nine months, so not having a GA position in the summer is not necessarily a loss of funding related to COVID-19. We typically only offer summer positions to about half of the students who hold GA positions in the fall or spring. We cannot extend GA opportunities into the summer where such an arrangement (and need) didn’t already exist. We are honoring the contracts that were made through either the Spring 2020 or Summer 2020 terms, neither shortening nor lengthening them beyond their original terms. Many graduate students also have been offered graduate assistantships for the fall term.
Healthcare and Insurance
Q: Do I have health insurance over the summer?
A: Graduate students who were provided with spring health insurance through their assistantships remain covered under the current Aetna plan through August 10, 2020, even if their assistantship does not continue through the summer term. Other graduate and undergraduate students who purchased the WVU student health insurance during spring term also are covered through August 10, 2020.
Q: What can I do if I lose my health insurance during the pandemic?
A: Students who had WVU student health insurance in the spring (that they either purchased themselves or that was provided through a graduate assistantship) will retain that coverage through August 10, 2020. Eligible students (domestic students registered for six or more credit hours and international students registered for one or more credit hours) can request mid-year enrollment in the Aetna student insurance plan any time during the semester if their current coverage is lost due to a qualifying life event. If a spouse or parent experiences a change in employment resulting in a loss of non-WVU health insurance, students can request enrollment in the Aetna plan.
Q: Will Aetna cover COVID-19 related health expenses?
A: Aetna is currently paying claims at 100% for COVID-19 testing-related services (in-network or out-of-network) and inpatient COVID-19 treatment for services received at in-network providers. In addition,certain telemedicine services currently do not require a co-pay, and referral requirements have been temporarily suspended.
Q: I am an international student. Can I maintain my legal status?
A: The Office of Global Affairs (OGA) has continued to process I-20 extensions and new I-20 applications since WVU’s transition to remote work. OGA advisors are still available via various virtual methods, with several individuals managing the phone lines and email vanity accounts—all of which are checked multiple times per day.
Q: I am an international student and can’t find work on-campus. How can I look for work off-campus?
Q: I am an international student and unable to travel home currently. What happens if my apartment lease expires?
A: The Office of Global Affairs (OGA) is working to identify and assist these students. If the student has graduated and is no longer a student, there are limitations on what WVU can do to help, but there is no intention of leaving international students, graduated or not, unsupported in basic living conditions (e.g., housing, food) should they be unable to return home because of travel restrictions. For students who are truly stuck (their lease has ended and they are awaiting flights home), we will try to assist with emergency housing options. Students who find themselves (or anticipate being) in this situation should contact OGA.
Q: I am an international student and may not be able to return to WVU in time for the fall semester. Will the University help me?
A: Most deans have expressed that an extension or deferral would be likely for international students who are unable to arrive at WVU in time for the fall semester, but future funding of those students cannot be guaranteed. The Office of Global Affairs (OGA) will be coordinating with deans and affected department chairs in June/July to determine what support is available to give our students and what coursework they can still accomplish from abroad if necessary. OGA is also working with relevant offices at the University to determine what work, if any, new or continuing GAs are permitted to perform while outside the country without negatively impacting their immigration status or tax liability.
Q: Does the University have a plan to test students that return to campus in the fall?
A: All faculty, staff and students who will be on campus this fall will be tested before classes begin. A detailed plan for broad-based, initial testing will be shared in the coming weeks. WVU will continue to conduct surveillance testing throughout the fall semester.
Q: Will I be required to do in-person work even if I am concerned about COVID-19 exposure?
A: A graduate or professional student who is not a GA (i.e., not paid) cannot be “required to work” unless the “work” is part of a course or required to earn course credits. Even so, students can decline to “work” as long as they understand the potential impact on their course grade or credits. Any potentially inappropriate cases of faculty or staff insisting that students work should be reported (in order) to the graduate program coordinator, department chair, college/school associate dean, or dean. The Office of Graduate Education and Life can assist students in communicating and resolving their concerns in this area. Any violations of guidance concerning work in labs, greenhouses, studios, or similar sites of on-campus research or scholarly activity should be reported to the appropriate Dean or to the Research Office.
The process for requesting accommodations and modifications of GA responsibilities based on COVID-19 concerns is outlined on the COVID-19 section of the Graduate Education website.
Q: What protections will be in place for graduate students?
Q: If I am at higher risk of COVID-19 complications, may
I request accommodations for attending my in-person courses?
A: If your accommodation request relates to your
academic requirements please reach out to the Office of Accessibility Services
and request an accommodation. The Office of Accessibility Services can be
reached here: https://accessibilityservices.wvu.edu/.