Tomás D. Morales, president of Cal State San Bernardino, participated in a President’s Panel to discuss “Institutional Experiences and Protocols During the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Future of Higher Education” on June 26.

The program, presented by Hispanic Educational Technology Services (HETS), took place virtually. The event featured a panel of presidents from different member institutions in Puerto Rico, the United States and Latin America who shared their expertise and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they see the future of higher education. The panel was moderated by Carlos Morales, president of Tarrant County College Connect Campus.

Joining Morales on the panel were David Gómez, president of Hostos Community College, City University of New York; Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University; Manuel J. Fernós, president of Inter American University of Puerto Rico; and Maritza Rondón, chancellor of Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia.

The panel explored various topics, including the resources and support that each institution has provided as it switched to a virtual format, the ways each institution is engaging its students in a virtual learning environment, how they are supporting disproportionately low-income students, and what the future of each institution looks like post COVID-19.

Morales discussed some of the changes that were implemented in the spring quarter, including instituting a credit/no credit option after students receive their grades, extending the library’s Laptop Lending Program (CSUSB distributed more than 400 laptops), and providing more than 200 hotspots to students at no cost.

“We made clear to our students that their well-being comes first. Their and their family’s health and safety will never be compromised,” Morales said.Our top priority has been ensuring our students have the resources to continue their academic progress and succeed. Faced with restrictions forcing staff to telecommute, we focused efforts on making academic counseling, tutoring, IT assistance and other student services available by phone and email.”

Morales also said the university supplied assistance and training for virtual teaching, offered emergency housing for those with no alternative living facilities, and continues to offer services at the DEN food pantries at both campuses for those dealing with food insecurity.

As for the future, Morales said, “the new paradigm will essentially be a hybrid – embracing the expansion of technology while also confirming the value of the college experience in the lives of our students.”

Online learning has been increasing in higher education, Morales noted.

“While not universally adopted by all of academia, its contributions to wider access, cost effectiveness and time efficiency were creating a pathway to a degree without the traditional brick-and-mortar infrastructure,” he said. “The pandemic has sped up the clock. Instead of moving at a measured pace, we now find ourselves rushing to catch up or risk being left behind. As is always the case, necessity will foster innovation. New hardware, new software, new methods and new ideas will lead to breakthroughs that will go beyond anything most of us can presently imagine.”

A recording of the panel discussion is posted at the “HETS Virtual Event – President’s Panel” webpage.

For more information, contact HETS at