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FIU Admissions Director: Some Incoming Freshmen Want A Gap Year, Others Want To Stay Close To Home

Michelle Marchante
Miami Herald
Florida International University in Miami is working to be flexible with incoming freshmen as they deal with the uncertainty of starting college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Florida International University’s classes online and its students off campus for the spring semester. Summer courses will be remote, too. Administrators have not yet announced plans for the fall.

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But Miami’s public university is still planning for a freshman class, with administrators trying to be as flexible as possible since students’ needs are changing quickly.

WLRN spoke with FIU director of admissions Jody Glassman about what she expects for the class of 2024 and beyond. Here's an excerpt of that conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity:

WLRN: What are you seeing so far with students who are supposed to start in the fall? Are you seeing students withdrawing because their plans have changed?

JODY GLASSMAN: We are seeing some students who have a change of plans. We've been asked about gap years. We do honor the request for deferring a year. We have received a number of requests for deposit waivers, which we're open to. We've seen a lot of students who are now opting to stay closer to home, students who maybe had plans to go away to school and now are staying closer to Miami-Dade. We're being flexible. There's no one mass policy that we can create for everybody.

The students have been able to meet with admissions counselors one-on-one. We've had Instagram live sessions every Friday, plus our virtual Zoom sessions for admitted students — both freshmen and transfer students — to answer their questions.

You're saying that, in some cases, there are students who were planning on going to a different school, but now they want to stay close to home. So in that sense, you're seeing some interest from students who otherwise would not have come to FIU?

Yeah, and that's okay. We're rolling admission. Our application just closed. So we still were able to make some admissions decisions for those students who are making those late decisions.

We do have three start terms. So we have students who will be starting in the summer. We have students who will be starting in the fall. And students who still need time or are still unsure — we have a freshman class that starts in the spring. We had almost 500 freshmen start this past spring, so it's not unusual. We're meeting them where they are.

Do you have a sense yet of what the size of the freshman class for the fall is going to look like, compared to what your expectations were before all of this happened?

We're still looking at where we expected it to be, which was between 3,700 and 3,800 freshmen.

When the economy suffers, that's traditionally a time when people decide to go back to school, and enrollment sometimes goes up. So I'm curious if you think that's a possibility as the pandemic continues?

In 2008, in the recession — yes, definitely. Enrollments went up. People come back to school. They may not earn a full degree, but there are certificate programs. There's additional education, there's continuing education.

This is hitting so differently that I’m … I'm not really sure. I think it's a lot harder for all of us to predict if enrollment will go up. This is so new for everybody. There's nothing, really, for any of us to benchmark this against.