The Binghamton Advantage Program (BAP) at SUNY Broome Community College (BCC) is navigating through the unique challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The BAP program provides an opportunity for students to be dually enrolled at BCC and Binghamton University, where students take classes at BCC while living on BU’s campus. BAP students then have the opportunity to transfer to the University after one or two years. While working through the pandemic and the existing complexity of the program, BAP students have been posed with the challenges of juggling a mixture of asynchronous, remote and in-person classes and the impact on academic resources due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
Kelli Smith, assistant vice president for student success, works closely with the BAP program and said her team has been adamant about continually providing academic support to these students despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been very intentional about communicating the various supports available for BAP students, including our new success coaching program and various workshops offered through [the Department of] Student Transition and Success here on the [BU] campus,” Smith said.
The BAP program is a part of Student Transition and Success, which works to support students in their academic and professional development. Topics discussed through the success coaching program include time-management, organization and study strategies.
Nicholas Delva, an undeclared freshman who is enrolled in BAP, said his main struggle is the lack of connection with educators due to the online learning format.
“I would say my biggest challenge in BAP this semester was feeling connected to my teachers and my classes,” Delva said. “I feel this is an overall feeling for almost all students right now, but I felt a very strong disconnect, and I can tell that it’s affecting my grades.”
Although BU and BCC collaborate in the execution of the BAP program, there have been some differences in the way that BCC has run their campus. Unlike BU, BCC has not changed its academic calendar as of Nov. 8, allowing students to return to in-person classes after Thanksgiving break into December. Because of this return, BAP students were allowed to complete a winter housing request to stay on campus to complete the rest of their classes for the semester without an additional charge. However, BAP students will only be allowed to live in break housing. This accommodation will give them a place to stay when BCC is in session and BU is not. Scaled-back dining services will also be available for students who return after the Thanksgiving break.
Both BCC and BU students who return home for Thanksgiving break must be tested for COVID-19 before their departure. This is in compliance with SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras’ Oct. 27 adoption of a SUNY-wide policy requiring all on-campus students to test negative for COVID-19 before returning home for Thanksgiving break. BCC and BAP students will also have to be tested before arriving back on campus if they choose to go home for the break. Smith said the details of this testing are still being determined.
Unlike BU, BCC did not experience a spike in COVID-19 cases and, therefore, did not have to implement a two-week pause. The campus did decide to voluntarily shift to almost full remote learning due to Broome County’s uptick in cases. Smith said the protocols put in place to keep COVID-19 cases at a low on BCC’s campus are comparable to the University’s but include a different type of surveillance testing.
“[BCC] has put safety protocols in place to keep our students, faculty and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Smith said. “Some examples include requiring a mask while inside all buildings on campus, encouraging students to practice physical distancing and conducting weekly surveillance pool testing.”
Pool testing allows for 10 to 25 samples to be rapidly tested at once. The test is self-administered and collects saliva rather than the nasal swab method that BU uses. If the test comes back negative, all individuals who had samples in the pool are negative for COVID-19. Because pool testing does not test individually, if the test comes back positive, each person in the group must then be called back for individual testing.
BAP students will only be tested on the BCC campus if they have in-person classes that are located on the BCC campus, with the testing center in the Library Building. Otherwise, BAP students will only be tested on BU campus, where they reside.