The University of Idaho Exclusive Recruitment Event, UIdaho Bound, has moved online this spring. This summer's events are still scheduled in person for now.
The decision was made while Idaho was still in Stage 2 of Governor Brad Little's Reopening Plan, according to Associate Director of Admissions Angela Helmke.
The UIdaho Bound events planned for March 27, April 24 and May 18 will be strictly online. The June 11, June 25, and July 9 events are still scheduled in person, but plans may change depending on the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There is still hope that we can welcome students onto campus," Helmke said. "Summer has generally given us opportunities to be outdoors and still go about business."
On February 4, the state moved to Stage 3, which allows gatherings of up to 50 people with an exemption for political and religious expression, educational activities, and health care events such as the COVID-19 test or vaccination.
In Stage 2, gatherings of 10 or more people were prohibited, with exceptions for classrooms.
With vaccine launches expected to continue into the spring semester, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment Management Dean Kahler said a decision needed to be made quickly.
“We needed to notify our families as far in advance as possible,” Kahler said. "They will make hotel and plane reservations to attend a face-to-face event."
For the June and July events, the current plan is to hold UIdaho Bound in person in the hope that there will be visible progress by the state in addressing the pandemic.
While there is hope that the summer events can be held in person, if the current COVID-19 status does not improve, they could also move online.
"Unfortunately, we will have to play it by ear before we know what it will look like," Helmke said. "At an in-person event, people are willing to be on campus for much longer than they might be willing to sit at a computer for a Zoom meeting."
In order to adjust for COVID-19 the previous year, some in-person activities were kept in small groups and others were submitted entirely online, a format that could continue.
"I assume we will wear masks and social distancing," Helmke said. "Whatever happens, the university and the city of Moscow have security protocols that we will follow."
UIdaho Bound has long been an important tool in getting new students to complete their registration and secure college as their school choice.
"It's a really good vehicle for us to wrap up and put that last stamp on the students," Kahler said. "We have a lot of students signing up, but they may still be shopping."
Despite the impacts of COVID-19, Kahler said that enrollment for freshmen has not dropped dramatically. First-time college student enrollment for fall 2020 only dropped by 56 students.
"We are very happy, because schools across the country were experiencing a 50% decline," Kahler said. "I think we avoided what could have been a more tragic situation."
Fully online UIdaho Bound events will be held live via remote sessions. There will be one-on-one virtual meetings with counselors available to help with registration. Access to live help from the Financial Aid Office will also be available.
To give prospective students a sneak peek, a new 360-degree virtual tour allows students to explore campus facilities and residential areas with a guide.
Kahler hopes that as things return to normal, the ability to recruit students will improve enrollment.
"I'm never happy when the numbers go down," Kahler said. "We believe that once COVID-19 is out of our way, we will take off again."
Haadiya Tariq can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @haadiyatariq