President Hutchinson discusses enrollment decline, COVID-19 and remote learning

Chico+State+President+speaking+on+her+support+for+freedom+of+speech+on+campus.+Photo+credit%3A+Christian+Solis

Chico State President speaking on her support for freedom of speech on campus. Photo credit: Christian Solis

The Orion sat down with Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson on Monday to discuss three pressing topics within the Chico State community. In the 30-minute interview, our team asked Hutchinson about Chico State’s continuing drop in enrollment, COVID-19 protocols on campus and the future of remote learning. 

Enrollment

Chico State released census data for the Fall 2021 semester in October that showed a more than 10% drop in enrollment since the Camp Fire.

Hutchinson attributed the decline to the Camp Fire, the pandemic and a national decline in student enrollment at four-year universities.

“It does have an impact on us,” Hutchinson said. “In addition to receiving state funds and the general fund, we also receive student tuition dollars, which help us provide that high-quality education and all the activities that students engage in.”

The university has received nearly $10 million in federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act & Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund since the pandemic began.

Hutchinson added that the university has given out millions of dollars to students since the pandemic began.

COVID-19 and campus

Even though most students and faculty are fully vaccinated, the president anticipates mask-wearing on campus beyond fall semester.

“It’s conceivable that we could be living this way, and living with COVID, which I think is very important to understand, and managing COVID, for a few years yet,” Hutchinson said.

The university has not yet determined whether booster shots will be required for faculty, staff and students.

“We are beginning to have this conversation with the Chancellor’s Office about when and what is appropriate for the booster,” Hutchinson said. “There is no decision yet as to what the recommendation will be but, I think, either by the end of semester or early in the spring.”

Chico-Flex and remote learning

The pandemic has changed the future of what instruction will look like at Chico State. Since the pandemic began, Chico State has converted 170 classes on campus into hybrid or “Chico-Flex” classrooms and trained 80 faculty to use the technology, Hutchinson said.

“We’re really strongly encouraging them to embrace hybrid and other technologies available to them,” Hutchinson said. “And we’re seeing good responses.”

Post-pandemic, the university expects to offer a range of hybrid learning formats to connect future students, faculty and staff who work remotely, Hutchinson said.

“In-person [instruction] is always going to be very much a part of who we are, but so, too, is the hybrid opportunity. … We want to embrace these things we’ve learned through the pandemic because at the end of the day, it’s going to create more access and more opportunity for student engagement.”

At the end of the interview, Hutchinson mentioned the university’s continuing fundraising efforts.

“We’ve raised $100 million in a very short period of time, and much of that money was raised during Camp Fire and a global pandemic, when a lot of people stop giving,” Hutchinson said. “We are gearing up for our second capital campaign, which will be even bigger and better and more involved, and I’m confident that we can get there.”

Hutchinson also addressed the new school logos.

“Everyone rallies behind Chico State,” Hutchinson said, “But in many ways, the marks that we had were old and tired, and we wanted — as we emerge as a brand new comprehensive university that is on stage, on track, to become prominent university — we need an identity refresh to get people excited about it.”

This story has been updated to correct the number of faculty trained to use Chico-Flex, not Hy-Flex. The correct number of trained faculty is 80, not 300.

Alex Martin, Ian Hilton and Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or @alexmartinjour and @kimberlymnews on Twitter.