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Info & Resources for Graduate Students on COVID-19 Impacts

This resource page provides regular updates on information and resources for graduate students related to COVID-19.

For information on our campus's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit the Campus Ready website.

Summary of COVID Updates and Resources for Grad Students Fall 2020


Policy and Procedure Changes Due to COVID-19

  • Educational continuity policies approved by the Academic Senate remain in place through the fall. These include S/U grading options for students, and blanket approval for graduate programs to extend normative times to degree as they see fit given the effects of COVID-19 on academic progress. Advisors and programs are responsible for working with students to identify funding sources if time to degree is delayed, and funding is not guaranteed beyond commitments made as part of admissions offers.

  • Graduate students who are out-of-state U.S. residents are required to establish California residency by the end of their first year to avoid being charged non-resident tuition. Normally, establishing California residency requires living in the state for a year, but the UC Residency Policy and Guidelines have been amended Oct. 7, 2020 to allow students to establish residency during the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 while residing outside the state.

    The UC Residency Policy and Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) currently provide that students must be physically present within California for a year prior to the Residency Determination Date (RDD) and that absences of six weeks or more in a one-year period disqualify a student from receiving in-state status. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Guidelines are hereby further amended in three ways.

    • To provide that a continuing student’s absence from the state for any length of time between March 9, 2020 and the Residency Determination Date for Fall 2020 at their campus shall not be counted toward the six week limit if the absence is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that students who temporarily left California in response to the pandemic remain eligible for in-state residency for the 2020-21 academic year so long as they meet all other applicable eligibility requirements.
    • The Guidelines are further amended to provide that a student, who has been or may be granted in-state status based on Financial Independence, may accept or use financial resources from another individual between March 9, 2020 and the end of the 2019-20 academic year without loss of eligibility for in-state status if the transfer of resources is made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • The enrollment in courses for the Fall, Winter, and Spring terms delivered via remote instruction during the 2020-21 academic year will serve as a replacement for physical presence if the following conditions are met: 1) the UC campus has extended the opportunity for remote instruction, and 2) the student may qualify for residency on their own without regard to a parent per Regents Policy 3105 I.C.2, or temporarily through a noncustodial California parent per Regents Policy 3105 I.D.4. Students meeting the above criteria will not need to acquire applicable legal indicia to prove their intent to stay in California by the deadlines in the Guidelines. However, UC expects students to acquire legal indicia as soon as is practicable. All students admitted and commencing enrollment after the end of the 2020-21 academic year will need to acquire applicable legal indicia by the applicable deadlines in the Guidelines.

Email gradfunding@ucmerced.edu with any questions.

  • Graduate students normally are limited to being employed as readers, teaching assistants, or teaching fellows for no more than 12 semesters total. This limit has been modified to exclude the spring and fall 2020 semesters. This modification means that graduate students enrolled during these semesters effectively have a limit of 14 semesters.

  • Graduate students who need to fill out new hire paperwork for employment may need to complete the process remotely, unlike the normal process of showing identification in person. Contact gradfunding@ucmerced.edu if you are unsure about your employment paperwork or have any questions.

  • Monthly paid parking requirements resume Sept. 1, 2020, with the first corresponding payroll deductions posting on the first pay period in October. Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) is pleased to announce new “Pay as You Go” daily parking to previous permit holders. If your work schedule requires returning to campus 12 days or less per month, contactless paid parking purchases can be made through the new FLOWBIRD mobile app. TAPS will send out more detailed information about this exciting new option soon. For more detailed information about Fall 2020 parking, please visit the TAPS faculty and staff webpage. Please contact TAPS or 209-228-8277 with questions regarding transportation and parking services.

  • Graduate students need approval to access campus buildings which now all have restricted access. Approval may be for research or instructional needs, and it may be ad hoc (e.g., to retrieve office items, check on equipment) or on an ongoing basis. Students should make arrangements with their advisor or graduate group chair, who will coordinate with school staff. Some requests may not be allowable given COVID-19 health regulations.


Fall Instruction

  • As of July 21, the decision was made to make nearly all courses remote for at least the first four weeks of the semester. Updated information will be shared as it becomes available.

  • Courses and TA assignments will be mostly be remote for the semester. A small number may return to some in-person delivery after the start of the semester, please check with instructors for local information.

  • Graduate students may be able to take courses and work remotely for the entire semester, please check with your advisors and instructors. New graduate students will likely need to be in the U.S. to be employed, and if desired, continuing graduate students should check with advisors, instructors, and school support staff to see if employment outside the U.S. may be possible during the semester.

  • Qualifying exams and thesis defenses will continue to be conducted remotely. See here for guidelines.

  • Graduate orientation week (GROW) is fully remote for this fall. Required training modules will be completed during the week of Aug. 17.

  • The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning has extensive resources for remote instruction, including a three-part seminar series tailored for teaching assistants. Seminars were recorded and will be posted here when ready.

  • International graduate students may remain in the U.S. with a fully remote course schedule unless their I-20 form states that some instruction will be delivered in-person. In this case, the students and advisors will work with school staff to arrange some amount of in-person activity, mostly through research credits.


Fall Support

  • Health Services: If you are ill, but it isn’t an emergency, contact Health Services at 209-228-4192, between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, excluding holidays or campus closure dates. Students covered by UC SHIP can call the 24/7 nurse line 24-hours a day, seven days a week and speak confidentially to a registered nurse. These nurses are trained to help you make more informed decisions about your health situation. This number is also on the back of your member ID card. 

  • Childcare reimbursement is available for TAs, GSRs and students on fellowships that provide a full stipend and tuition remission. The University is providing a temporary exception to the ASE Childcare Reimbursement Program for Fall 2020 by adhering to the minimum requirements of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as to who qualifies as a “childcare provider” for purposes of reimbursement. 

  • The Office of Information Technology has provided strategies and tools to help students attend classes, do schoolwork and teach remotely.

  • Academic Counselor Maria Nishanian is available to assist graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are experiencing challenges affecting their academic progress. She can facilitate communication between mentors and mentees, provide graduate students, faculty and postdocs with training on best practices in mentorship, and help with other issues common to graduate students, such as adjusting to graduate school, work-life balance, dealing with the imposter syndrome, etc. Please reach out to Maria by phone at 209-947-9358 or email mnishanian@ucmercededu.

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) will again provide a weekly Graduate Student Support Group this semester. It is a free, confidential space for open discussion. Meeting details for the support group will be announced by email. No matter where you are in California, you can utilize CAPS services, 209-228-4266; Live Health: https://livehealthonline.com; and Therapy Assistance Online or TAO: https://counseling.ucmerced.edu/tao.

  • Graduate statistics and writing tutoring is available by appointment. Please email gradtutor@ucmerced.edu and puts “stats” or writing” in the header

  • The Graduate Student Association and the Graduate Division will be hosting online social events through the fall, to be announced through the Graduate Weekly Digest.

  • Campus leadership is considering the basis of campus-based fees given that students will not be on campus this fall because instruction will be primarily if not fully remote. A communication about these fees is forthcoming.


Research Relaunch

  • All buildings will be open for research teams with approved operational plans as of Thursday, Aug. 20. A crucial aspect of this reopening is testing and screening of all faculty, post-docs, graduate students and staff who work in the buildings.

  • PIs must submit operational plans to the Office of Research and Economic Development; grad students and postdocs should be involved in these plans and sign attestations.

  • Protecting the health and safety of members of the campus community remains our priority. During the COVID-19 pandemic, students and postdoctoral scholars should not feel compelled to work in the lab if they think operations have not adequately mitigated the risks of COVID-19. Please contact Graduate Academic Counselor Maria Nishanian with any concerns.


COVID-19 Risk Mitigation

  • When you are allowed to come to campus, please do your part: Wear a face covering, clean and disinfect workspaces and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others, except for those with whom you share a primary residence. If you have COVID-19 symptoms or had known contact with someone who tested positive, please quarantine at home. If you need medical assistance, please work through your health care providers and health insurance as usual.

  • The UC Merced health check daily check-in has been rolled out to all graduate students, who should receive prompts via email or phone app (attestation forms are available for fields researchers and any one unable to access the online system). The check-in is designed to remind all community members to monitor their symptoms daily and take precautions if necessary.

  • Follow signs on campus directing foot traffic as part of efforts to social distance by avoiding close contact in spaces like stairwells and halls.

  • Grad students who will be returning to campus are required to complete an online training course. Details will be emailed when they become available.

  • Grad students (and others) who will be doing research regularly on campus will need to be tested asymptomatically through Student Health Services located at the new Wellness and Athletic Center. Each individual participating in the program will be required to have two negative test results over a 14-day period to establish a baseline, followed by weekly tests of random individuals throughout the campus community. Details on testing schedules will be emailed when they become available. Graduate students and undergraduate student researchers on approved research operational plans will be notified by the COVID Response Center by email when their testing is scheduled. Drive through hours will be available. Individuals who are present for one-time access will not be required to participate in the asymptomatic testing program.

All students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are eligible for testing at Student Health Services. Here are the steps to setting up your appointment. Call 209-228-2273 for a telehealth visit and testing options will be discussed. Call 911 for life threatening emergencies. For more information, visit https://health.ucmerced.edu/covidtesting

  • Influenza Vaccine Requirement

    To support the health and well-being of our campus and local communities, all members of the UC Merced community are strongly encouraged to receive an influenza immunization by Nov. 1, 2020. Per the UC Office of the President executive order, all faculty, staff and students who will be working, living or learning on a UC campus anytime during the 2020-21 flu season must get an influenza vaccination. Those who have not received a vaccine or applied for an exemption by the deadline will not be admitted to any university facilities if classes or activities resume on site during the 2020-2021 flu season, or if they are residing in university facilities during the flu season.

Walk Up Clinic: Every Friday starting Oct. 9 Time: 8:00 a.m. to noon

Drive Up Clinic: Every Tuesday starting Oct. 13 Time: 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Students: Please visit your MyHealth Portal to schedule your appointment.

Staff & Faculty: Please visit your MyHealth Portal or call the SHC (209-228-2273) to schedule your appointment

All recipients will need to complete a Seasonal Influenza Immunization Consent Form and bring it to your appointment.

Cost: No charge for the injection to students who are enrolled at UC Merced; Staff & Faculty: A charge of $25.00 will need to be paid prior to your appointment, please provide your receipt or proof of online payment at the time of service. Please submit payment via Cashnet.

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For campuswide communications, please visit the Emergency Preparedness website.


The Graduate Division office is closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but still available remotely.

Contact Us

Graduate Division Main Line: 209-228-4723

Admissions: gradadmissions@ucmerced.edu

Funding: gradfunding@ucmerced.edu

Academic Sevices: gradservices@ucmerced.edu

Updated  Oct. 14, 2020