Just as a path forward seemed to be emerging, the coronavirus pandemic spiked in cities across America, forcing colleges and universities to reconsider their plans for the fall semester.
Every institute of higher education is tackling the COVID-19 conundrum differently. Some are postponing the semester, while some are offering more remote coursework and others are implementing strict on-campus policies.
The top 25 U.S colleges and universities recently discussed their fall 2020 reopening plans. This sampling of university plans from all areas of the country offers a glance into the new reality college students face this fall.
Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island
On July 7, President Christina H. Paxson outlined the University’s “Plan for a Healthy and Safe 2020-2021.” This plan involves a three-term academic model that integrates a combination of on-campus and remote instruction.
“The focus at all times has been how we can best protect the health of our students, staff, faculty and Providence residents while delivering Brown’s world-class education, critical research, and remaining a valued neighbor in our city, state and region,” she said.
The changes include significant adjustments to modes of instruction, housing, dining, and extracurricular activities, as well as strict protocols for social distancing, mask-wearing, cleaning, and ongoing testing. For example:
- Undergraduate students will be allowed on campus for two of the three terms (fall, spring, summer)
- All undergraduates living on campus will have single rooms
- All classes with more than 20 students will be taught remotely
- All students will be tested for COVID-19 when they return to campus in the fall or winter
- All students are required to participate in random testing to monitor the spread
“Brown’s plans have been informed by epidemiological models, and the University will closely monitor evolving developments in testing methods to take advantage of the most effective testing strategies,” Paxson said.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University has preliminary plans to allow more on-campus education than Brown. President Samuel Stanley believes managing the risk is a chance worth taking to get students back on campus.
“The one thing that’s going to be really important, then, is confidence in our students, faculty and staff and their willingness to abide by a number of the things we’re going to be asking them to do on campus,” Stanley said.
MSU plans to implement one-way hallways, hybrid format classes, and limited dormitory occupancy to decrease density and minimize unnecessary social contact. Any in-person instruction will end by November 25 as the flu season ramps up.
California Institute of Technology, better known as CalTech, is located in Pasadena, California, where COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly throughout July. As a result, CalTech and other west coast universities are approaching the fall semester with extreme caution.
At the moment, CalTech plans to deliver instruction using a hybrid model of remote and in-person learning, with all in-person course work completed before Thanksgiving to allow students to travel home and stay there. CalTech housing will be limited to one-third of the undergraduate student body, and all rooms will be limited to single occupancy.
As the coronavirus pandemic evolves and the situation becomes better or worse, these universities and hundreds of others across the country may change their plans in response. But one thing is for certain: the college experience won’t be “back to normal” until at least 2021.