GVSU announces "test-optional" applications for fall 2021, earmarks $9M for students with hardships

President Philomena V. Mantella leads a town hall meeting for faculty.
President Philomena V. Mantella leads a town hall meeting for faculty.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

True to Grand Valley's values, a virtual town hall meeting for faculty members held April 16 was focused on the well-being and success of students.

Questions submitted by faculty centered on how best to support students who are struggling with finances or academics.

President Philomena V. Mantella said, in an effort to reduce hardship and barriers for prospective students, Grand Valley will go "test-optional" for students applying for the fall 2021 entering class. This option means SAT and ACT standardized tests are not required for students applying to enter in fall 2021. 

"During this time of uncertainty, we want to remove stress and respond to the needs of prospective students," Mantella said. "We want to take worry off the table."

Lynn "Chick" Blue, vice president for Enrollment Development, said Grand Valley Admissions takes a holistic approach to reviewing applications, allowing the university to maintain its academic standards while making sure students will be successful at Grand Valley.

"Several factors of an application are evaluated to determine academic fit for Grand Valley," said Blue. "We can gain deep insight from grade point average, rigor of courses, and many other factors." 

Mantella said test-optional is being explored for the GMAT and GRE for graduate programs, saying Grand Valley wants to be as flexible as possible for all students. 

Blue told faculty that students experiencing financial struggles should contact the Financial Aid office. She said Grand Valley has been granted $9 million in federal funds for students experiencing a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Students will soon be able to apply for funds on the Financial Aid website.

Karen Loth, vice president for University Development, said the Student Support Fund has now grown to about $56,000. Loth said faculty and staff have generously given to the fund, which helps students who are facing economic hardships.

"The amount in the fund may not seem like a lot, but any amount helps and the fund continues to grow," said Loth. "A grant of $50 brought one student to tears."

Provost Maria Cimitile said the university is doing what it can to mitigate inequities that are pronounced because of COVID-19.

Cimitile told faculty she understands the sacrifices necessary to teach a full load while attending to student needs. She encouraged faculty to continue to connect with students. "I've seen such creativity in remote learning and it's humbling," she said. "Your relationship with students is vital in helping them continue on a pathway to education."

Mantella encouraged faculty members to take care of themselves and their families, seek out opportunities to learn and improve, and keep positive knowing Grand Valley will prevail.

"Universities that offer a low-cost, high-quality education and are agile will prevail. Grand Valley is one of those universities because of you," she said.

In a virtual town hall for parents, also held on April 16, Ellen Schendel, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, informed parents about new academic policies put in place after remote learning began, and said students should contact their advisors for one-on-one assistance about what is best for them.

Schendel said with finals week approaching, students should take advantage of virtual tutoring, virtual library resources and the services offered at the Student Academic Success Center.

Loren Rullman, vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students, said the GVSU Career Center is offering virtual career lab appointments and a virtual career fair is scheduled for early May. 

Mantella reminded parents about the Laker Lifetime Learning (L3) Commitment, support for graduates' continued learning by committing financial and advising resources to alumni who want to update their skills and knowledge.

"If I had to stress one thing, I would say don't let this situation disrupt your student's learning or opportunities to continue their education," Mantella said.

A series of Laker virtual meetings is scheduled for members of the campus community; visit this site to view future dates.