University of Guam junior Joyce Martin tends to some school work as she enjoys some fresh air on the school's Mangilao campus on Oct. 26, 2021.

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Another $4.2 million in federal funds will be provided to University of Guam students this academic year.

While the amounts for each student enrolled in the current Fanuchånan semester (August-December) are still being determined, students can expect $475-$775 based on their enrollment - part time vs. full time - and Pell grant status, according to Jonas Macapinlac, UOG’s chief marketing and communications officer.

This will be the fourth direct grant payment provided to students.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, UOG has distributed $6.5 million from federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds or HEERF directly to students through checks or direct deposit,” he said. “This academic year, we will distribute an additional $4.2 million in HEERF in direct grant aid and through our needs-based UOG Cares Emergency Grant.”

Last semester, Fañomnåkan 2021, UOG distributed $2.3 million to 3,061 students — each received between $436 and $873 depending on their status and Pell Grant eligibility.

The UOG Cares initiative is one way the University of Guam has tried to support students pursing a higher education during the Covid-19 pandemic. The school also offers online and in-person courses with some courses offered as hybrids.

Joyce Martin, 21, is majoring in social work at the Mangilao university. She said she enjoys the interaction of in-person learning but also admits that online classes are convenient in that she doesn't have to worry about driving in traffic to get to class.

"I do have one class that is face-to-face," she said. "Sometimes it's nice to get out and interact with actual human beings."

She was on campus recently to make use of the RFK Library, an area that UOG administration has worked to ensure is cleaned regularly sanitized to protect the university community safe.

Reducing cost

Under the UOG Cares initiative, financial relief helped to bring down the cost of education for the current semester. Qualified students were able to avail of direct grant aid or the UOG Cares Emergency grant program.

Under the UOG Cares initiative financial relief helped to bring down the cost of education for the current semester. Qualified students were able to avail of direct grant aid or the UOG Cares Emergency grant program.

“We created the UOG Cares Initiative, which provides financial relief, academic support, and health and wellness support to UOG students during the pandemic,” Jonas Macapinlac, UOG’s chief marketing and communications officer said.

“We’ve also provided rebates on tuition and waived fees with the institutional portion to provide our students with additional financial relief,” Macapinlac said.

Adapting to pandemic

Academic support has been extended to students who were welcomed back to in-person instruction after a period of pandemic prompted distance learning.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, all classes were moved completely online. However, this semester, we welcomed students back to in-person classes while still providing options for online and hybrid classes,” Macapinlac said. “Tools like Zoom, Big Blue Button, MS Teams and more have been used to conduct classes, and we have increased resources for students and faculty using our online learning platform Moodle. We’ve also held training sessions in the use of these tools and online learning in general.”

Under the UOG Cares initiative through HEERF funding, improved online learning infrastructure to support the demands of learning outside of the classroom with Mi-Fi devices for students needing a high-speed internet connection at home.

On campus, the university created several "Green Zones" to provide students with high-speed Internet access and safe, sanitized spaces to study.

To support learning further, UOG offers tutoring services that are student run, the Deal Writing Center and the Mathematics tutor Lab.

“For English, students are evaluated and assigned tutors and directed to the writing center to help them improve their skills. We are also offering math tutoring and peer mentoring programs to our students,” Macapinlac said.

Vaccination requirements

Like many schools on island, health and safety of students and employees on campus is priority, UOG has put several measures in place.

“All employees and students are required to be vaccinated or have an approved accommodation based on medical or disability needs, or sincerely-held religious belief, practice, or observance. All classes and activities are conducted in accordance with DPHSS guidelines and UOG's health and safety protocols,” Macapinlac said.

UOG provides each student with a reusable mask. Other personal protective equipment like face shields, gloves, and reusable and disposable masks area also available at the Triton Store. In addition, plastic barriers have been placed throughout customer service areas.

These efforts were funded through the institutional portions of the HEERF for Covid-19 mitigation.

According to UOG’s website, proactive measures have been taken in accordance with CDC guidelines and Department of Public Health and Social Service protocols, including:

• Masks required everywhere on campus, indoors and out.

• Temperature checks as needed.

• Increased cleaning frequency and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces.

• Hand sanitizer available throughout the campus.

• Many classrooms and buildings have been outfitted with air filtration systems. Facilities personnel are adding these systems to more rooms every week.

• No eating or drinking is authorized indoors on campus. Eating or drinking should only be done in a fixed location outdoors with six feet of distance from others.

Photojournalist Dontana Keraskes contributed to this report.

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