LC offers seniors an extension to offset disruption of COVID-19

Illustration by Amelia Madarang

Lewis & Clark will allow students who will have completed eight semesters by the end of Spring 2021 to extend their education one or two semesters in order to compensate for the limitations of the pandemic.

Students still have the option to apply for this extension, though if any changes are made to this semester’s course load to accommodate an extension, a withdrawal will appear on the student’s transcript. According to Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid Eric Staab, fewer than five students have started the paperwork for this process as of Feb. 12. He does not expect more than 10 students to utilize this opportunity.

At an information session held over Zoom on Jan. 23, Staab said he felt it was important to provide this opportunity to seniors.

“The reason why the college is making this opportunity available is with the pandemic, the way it has impacted students’ studies — it has not made people’s senior years as … rounded and as robust as people had hoped or expected,” Staab said.

The webpage for the extension program mirrors this sentiment, stating that “Your senior experience has been nothing like you could have imagined.” Steps to complete the process are also provided.

Interested students may reach out to their academic advisor to discuss whether this opportunity will be available to them. International students need to consult the office of International Students and Scholars. Student-athletes may reach out to Director of Physical Education and Athletics Mark Pietrokto see if they can continue their sport in additional semesters. Veterans should consult with their veterans’ certifying official before finalizing their plans.

According to the webpage, the next step after consultation should be the completion of the COVID-Related Petition for Additional Semester(s) of Financial Aid Eligibility form and further discussion with the financial aid office.

Stipulations for federal financial aid are strict and will cover required credits in a student’s course of study for only up to six years for an undergraduate program. Students can extend their work-study by adding an additional minor or major. Work-study and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant will be offered for as long as the need is present. If seniors applying for this program wish to receive federal aid, they are required to file a 2021-22 FAFSA.

Federal guidelines like these, as well as institutional policies, presented a challenge for staff developing this opportunity.

“The federal rules are pretty clear that the taxpayers’ dollars are only going to go towards classes that will help you to graduate from college,” Staab said. “We, the taxpayers, aren’t going to finance your eight-year experience in college, just because you want to.”

Ordinarily, the college would not extend merit-based scholarships past four years. However, the college is making an exception for this program, according to Associate Vice President for Financial Aid Anastacia Dillon.

“When we offered you that scholarship, we said (it) is for eight semesters only,” Dillon said. “We’re actually making an exception, because of this kind of extraordinary time period that we’re in right now, that we will allow the merit scholarship eligibility to move forward into these additional semesters that you may be requesting.” 

Both federal and institutional financial aid applicable to this program are subject to proration. This means that students’ aid will be adjusted depending on how many credits they are enrolled in and their status as a full-time, part-time or per-credit student.

The last step of the extension application is to inform the Registrar’s office of a new intended graduation date.

Students who wish to extend their LC career an additional semester may still be eligible to walk at the Spring 2021 graduation. Those extending for a full year will walk at the Spring 2022 ceremony. Summer and winter graduation dates may also be available.

Staab is unsure whether this opportunity will be available to the Class of 2022 if the pandemic continues.

“If there’s anything I have learned from COVID-19, it’s that we live one day at a time, one week at a time,” Staab said. “So I make no promises about what the future is of this opportunity.”

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