Berklee Goes Remote for the Fall Semester

Dear Members of the Berklee College of Music Community,

Since March, when the spread of COVID-19 in the United States dramatically changed the way we work and live, Berklee’s highest priority has been the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. Despite our extensive efforts to build the Back to Berklee hybrid plan, and our determination to return to campus, when we look at the facts as they are unfolding across the country and abroad, we simply don't feel confident that it would be healthy and safe for our community to be on campus this fall.

As we have all been looking forward to our return to campus, we realize that news of a remote-only semester may be deeply disappointing. Please know that we share these feelings. In reaching our decision, we considered the many complex factors that could potentially disrupt on-campus activities: the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the U.S.; future projections; travel risks; the unique challenges of teaching music, theater, and dance; and the reality of our campus location in an urban setting. After careful review, we concluded that the best course of action for the well-being and safety of our students, faculty, and staff is to offer our fall semester fully online.

As a result, all educational offerings at Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee in Boston will now be fully remote for the fall semester. Additionally, the First Year Abroad and Berklee Study Abroad programs on our campus in Valencia, Spain, will not be offered this year.

I’m confident that this remote fall semester will offer students unparalleled opportunities to learn, collaborate, and achieve their educational and artistic goals. Online teaching and learning are not new to Berklee. For the last two decades, our online school, Berklee Online, has been celebrated for its ability to provide engaging and varied learning experiences to students worldwide. Nothing can replicate a college campus, but when done right, online learning provides students with a robust and rewarding educational experience, one that is worthy of their talent and time, and that keeps them on track to achieve their goals.

This fall, we will leverage our online instructional expertise, a forward-thinking curricular model, and what we learned from teaching remotely in the spring and summer to engage students and connect them meaningfully with their peers, faculty, and industry professionals. The unexpected move away from an on-campus model last spring, for colleges and universities worldwide, required everyone to transition quickly to a remote format. While we made that transition successfully, we have used the intervening time to develop additional tools and skills among our faculty and staff to support an optimal student experience. Hundreds of Berklee College of Music faculty have taught for the online school over the past 20 years, and hundreds of others have participated in rigorous professional development programs to develop their skills in teaching in a fully remote environment. 

The arts and creative industries are moving rapidly toward global collaboration across time and space, often done in much the way our teaching and learning will be done. We will use this challenging period to learn new skills, as individuals and as an institution, that better equip our students to thrive and be future leaders in dance, theater, and music.

Part of what has always made a Berklee education special is the diversity of our community. We are in a powerful moment of recognition of the inequality and injustice that persists in the world and within our own campus. While we are learning remotely and confronting this health crisis, we will also continue to find ways to fight the deeply ingrained crisis of racism and build a Berklee that better serves all of its students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Tuition, Increased Scholarship Support, Grants, and Free Summer Courses 

We understand the challenging economic situation so many are facing as a result of the pandemic, and have worked hard to find extensive cost savings for our students so that they can enroll this fall as planned, without disruption to their educational progress. As we informed you in June, we will eliminate our 3.45% tuition increase planned for this year and waive our comprehensive fee for students who enroll this fall. We are deeply appreciative of the faculty, staff, and administrators who made financial sacrifices and, in some cases, accepted significant salary cuts to enable this tuition freeze and help our students.

We will provide a one-time Back to Berklee Remote Learning Grant of $2,500 to all full-time degree students, not to exceed tuition, to help allow investments in equipment, instruments, software, technology, or space rental, or simply to offset total tuition in this fully remote semester. This represents savings of 17% for college students compared to the original fall 2020 rates.

Additionally, students enrolling full-time in fall 2020 are eligible for two tuition-free credit-bearing courses (up to six credits), to be taken in summer 2021, toward their degree program requirements. Taken together, these initiatives amount to an almost 60% savings for our students. We offer this additional support to give an in-person, experiential program of study to complement the remote fall experience.

Original Fall 2020 Tuition with Comprehensive Fee:

$23,615

Comprehensive Fee Savings

$670

Tuition Freeze Savings

$765

Back to Berklee Grant Savings

$2,500

Two-Course Credit for Summer 2021

$10,020

Total Savings

$13,955

 

More information on tuition, grants, and fees for full-time, part-time, and diploma students can be found on the Student Financial Services section of our website. 

In addition to these robust cost savings, we have increased our overall scholarship support for new and continuing students by 15% (over $10 million) compared to last year through expanded need-based aid for admitted students and our Thrive scholarship program, and we will honor all previously awarded College and Conservatory scholarships for the fall semester. We have also increased funding to the appeals budget for students whose families are experiencing financial difficulties, and through the generosity of current parents and families, the Board of Trustees, Berklee leadership, and community members, we have mobilized the Berklee Student Emergency Fund to help our returning students navigate this challenging time. 

Back to Berklee: The Remote Academic Experience and Engagement Opportunities

This is a defining moment in history for musicians, dancers, and actors, and we believe there is no better place in the world than Berklee for students to continue to develop their artistry. As ever, we are carefully considering what the current moment means for our students, in both the short and long term, as they develop their creative and career potential in a rapidly evolving artistic environment. 

Academic Experience

Our remote academic offerings this fall will provide a world-class learning experience while also building a strong sense of community through newly designed opportunities for collaboration, performance, and connection. Our thoughtfully designed remote curriculum maximizes the strengths of online teaching and learning, with a focus on experiential training, robust academic courses, and individualized attention and mentoring from faculty. Further, we will be providing class scheduling options designed for our international student cohorts. Students will be able to register for classes taught by faculty at our Valencia campus that may be more appropriately timed for synchronous study for many in countries with time-zones outside of North America. 

Other significant enhancements and opportunities:

  • We are temporarily adjusting our policies to allow for part-time study for entering and continuing students this fall. Students will be able to register for six to 11 credits to qualify for part-time status. Tuition and scholarships will be prorated accordingly, offering additional flexibility to those who need it. Part-time students will receive a $500 Back to Berklee Remote Learning Grant.

  • We anticipate that we will be able to open our Fordham Road facility as a practice facility on a priority basis, at cost, for full-time students. Details are forthcoming.

Engagement Opportunities

In addition to our remote academic experience, we are offering a number of engagement opportunities for our students this fall, including:

  • Exclusive access to Berklee visiting artist events with renowned artists and professionals in areas ranging from performance, music business, technology, and songwriting to health and wellness, social justice, and more. Over the past few months, we have welcomed John Legend, Tank and the Bangas, Jacob Collier, Esperanza Spalding, Christian McBride, Q-Tip, and others to share their wisdom with us, and we have more exciting events lined up for the fall semester.

  • The Virtual Job and Internship Expo and employer information sessions—similar to this event from the spring semester—with many opportunities to network with our esteemed faculty and alumni communities.

  • Academic and career advisors for mentoring and guidance via remote one-on-one meetings, in addition to daily virtual walk-in appointments and on-demand professional development planning resources. 

  • Remote tutoring and training options to help students master core music concepts and skills with the support and guidance from an experienced peer tutor.

  • A variety of clubs to enrich the student experience, encourage engagement outside the classroom, and provide opportunities to develop valuable leadership skills.

  • Experiential opportunities involving the BIRN, Berklee Revelation Records, FUSION, the Music Therapy Spotlight Series, the Music Business Journal, and departmental music releases.

Registration and Billing

On Friday, July 24, students will receive their registration times and be directed to the fall course offerings. Registration will start on Monday, July 27, and run through Friday, July 31. Students who had planned to spend their first year or a study abroad semester at our Valencia campus will register with all other students, since those undergraduate programs are not being offered this fall. 

As a reminder, we have extended the billing deadline to Wednesday, August 26. 

Moving Forward

I know many of you reading this have questions about what this decision will mean specifically for you. Over the next few days and weeks staff will receive more detailed information and next steps, but I wanted to let you all know about this decision as quickly as possible so that you continue to have the most up-to-date information as you make your plans for the fall. Human Resources will reach out to supervisors with information about and for furloughed staff. For additional details about our fall plans, and to see frequently asked questions, go to berklee.edu/btb

Thank you again for your continued flexibility and dedication to your studies, teaching, and work. I am, as ever, grateful for this community, and look forward to the time when we can be back together on campus. Until then, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to our respective work, making meaningful contributions to the arts and to arts education from all over the world. 

Sincerely, 

Roger H. Brown
President, Berklee