Jackson State University hosted a Back-to-School Virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, July 20, to answer pressing questions about the Fall 2022 semester and provide information on housing, financial aid, and academic advising to help students transition into the new school year easily. Move-In Day is Saturday, Aug. 13.
The Town Hall was moderated by Vice President of Student Affairs Fran’Cee Brown-McClure, Ph.D., who joined the University in July.
President Thomas K. Hudson, J.D., issued a warm welcome to students and parents, saying, “It means a lot that you would entrust JSU with your education, and we will do our best to make your journey both enjoyable and impactful. You have chosen a very special time to be here at Jackson State University.”
Hudson added that the University was winning in the classroom, research, student-led activities and athletics. But the president also addressed the lingering pandemic, pointing out the ongoing testing and vaccination clinics the University has hosted since March 2021, helping to ease some of the challenges faced during the previous two fall openings.
The president then addressed a chief concern among students and parents, referencing the University’s extensive housing waitlist, which Hudson said results from increased demand and the excitement surrounding JSU’s upward trajectory.
He also acknowledged years of underfunding, which has left JSU unable to meet the growing student population with current spaces. The president shared that the university was taking a two-prong approach to the issue – “fixing, renovating and repairing current residential spaces and looking to build better and newer in the coming year.”
“It’s long overdue for JSU, and it’s long overdue for a new residence hall that meets our growing demand and is more in line with what our students need and want,” Hudson stated. “We ask that everyone be patient with us; work with us. We’re going to try and place as many students as we can this year.”
McClure informed students that if they applied for housing before June 30, they are on the waitlist and should be receiving regular communications from the Office of Housing.
“If we have rooms available in our housing space, we will contact you and let you know a room is available,” she stressed. “If you have not heard from us yet, you do not have a confirmed room.”
McClure urged students not to show up on campus expecting a room without having a housing assignment. Students who have been assigned housing have limited time to claim their spot based on their check-in date. Unclaimed rooms will be released to accommodate students on the waitlist.
The Town Hall shifted to a question about the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, which provides up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete courses to initiate a career in teaching.
Director of Financial Aid Ozie Ratcliff referred students to studentaid.gov to apply and advised them to complete an agreement to serve.
“You must have both of these things on file before any processing can begin to check your eligibility,” he advised.
Ratliff said that being in a high-needs content area, i.e., STEM or high-need area is a requirement. Once students complete the teach grant process, they will have to spend about three to five years in a high-needs area in a low-serving district for the grant not to turn into a loan.
“Your main qualifications are making sure you’re in the right area of study and getting your content in, and you have done the proper application and agreement to serve,” he said. “Just be aware that the agreement to serve is a contract to serve in an under-performing district.”
Students also wanted to know how to determine if their request for financial assistance was complete, and Ratliff instructed them to log into their P.A.W.S account to check their award and award amount. Students can accept or decline all or a portion of it.
Addressing COVID-19 protocols for the fall, Brown-McClure advised that JSU will continue to follow the Mississippi state guidelines.
“We are going to send out more specific information to the campus community in the coming week. So please make sure to check your email and continue to check the website for all of our updates regarding COVID-19, but ultimately please make sure that you are following best practices and that you are being very safe for yourself,” she encouraged.
She shared that there was no longer a limit on the number of people that assist a student on Move-In Day. However, the University wants students and family members to be mindful of increased traffic and take precautionary steps to ensure safety.
Chief of Police Herman Horton, who oversees JSU’s Department of Public Safety, explained that they are partnering with local agencies, including the University Mississippi Medical Center Police, Jackson Police Department, Mississippi Highway Patrol, and Capitol Police, to ensure a unified approach. However, the university typically sees a deficient number of campus incidents.
The University has also made improvements to its emergency towers, lighting system and camera system, which incorporates two-way communication with campus safety dispatch.
By using artificial intelligence (AI) communication, the Department of Public Safety is working to create an ecosystem to better deter, detect and help investigate various incidents that may occur on campus.
Horton also highlighted training and improving campus relationships through the following:
- Shifting towards implementing a public safety model vs. traditional policing
- Creating a student-safety focus group to further build community relations with students and gather information from those individuals to help find areas of improvement
- Collaborating with Latasha Norman center to train officers on how to properly diffuse and deescalate mental health crises and provide first aid
View the Back-to-School Fall 2022 Town Hall on the JSU Facebook page to learn more about the upcoming fall semester.