As the 2019-2020 academic year comes to an end, colleges and universities across the country are already grappling with an unprecedented question for the next school year: whether to reopen campuses at all.
California State University Goes Virtual
California State University made national headlines in mid-May when it became one of the first university systems to officially make fall semester courses entirely virtual. Nearly all classes across its 23 university campuses will be held online until the end of the fall term, or possibly longer.
Other universities have been eagerly awaiting CSU’s decision. As the largest four-year public college system in the country with more than 480,000 students, CSU’s choice to go virtual is very significant.
“Our university, when open without restrictions and fully in person, as is the traditional norm of the past, is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity with each other on a daily basis,” CSU Chancellor White stated in his announcement. “That approach, sadly, just isn’t in the cards now as I have described.”
The only courses permitted to meet on campus will be classes in nursing, creative arts, maritime studies, and physical science labs, all of which require in-person training. However, White has also stated that campuses with a low burden of disease may be able to allow more in-person instruction as the semester continues.
“The university does remain open,” White explained. “But we’re going to shift as much as we can into the virtual environment. And we’re also going to be spending the next several months with our faculty and staff on professional development and training and the introduction of even more sophisticated ways in which to do virtual learning.”
CSU is currently projecting nearly $300 million losses for the spring term along due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced CSU to go virtual in mid-March. The losses for an entirely virtual fall semester are guaranteed to be even steeper.
CA Community College Chancellor Endorses Virtual Plan
Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of California’s 115 community colleges, plan to continue online-only courses through the fall semester.
“As we transition to the fall, many of our colleges have already announced that they’re going fully online in the fall,” Oakley said. “I encourage them to continue to do so. I fully believe that that will be the most relevant way for us to continue to reach our students and to do it in a way that commits to maintaining equity for our students.”
The University of California, however, still isn’t prepared to make a decision for the fall semester. “We are exploring a mixed approach with some material delivered in classroom and labs settings while other classes will continue to be online,” explained spokeswoman Claire Doan. “Our campuses will reopen for on-site instruction when it is safe to do so- in accordance with federal, state, and local health departments and authorities.”
Overall, CSU Chancellor White offers optimism for students during the 2020-2021 school year: “Learning in and taking your courses and making progress to a degree gets you to that degree sooner rather than later, and then creates a lifetime of opportunity you otherwise would not have…. So, while acknowledging that some of that excitement will not be there when we’re doing things virtually, this is a shorter-term problem for a much longer-term gain.”