Colleges’ Approach to the Pandemic

With most students starting to wrap up classes online now, colleges are making decisions about the upcoming fall classes and how to approach them with the pandemic in mind. Many financial, safety, and convenience factors come into play, as parents, faculty, and students are divided over the issue of returning back to campuses. According to a survey of 310 presidents conducted by the American Council on Education, 53% of college presidents say its “very likely” that their classes will resume in-person in fall and 31% say that this is “somewhat likely.” With this in mind, institutions are starting to consider the actions needed to keep their students safe on campus, should they return.

Recently, schools such as University of Notre Dame, Boston College, and Northeastern University have announced that they intend to have their students return to their campuses in the fall with new implementations in mind to do so. Notre Dame plans to bring students back on August 10, two weeks earlier than normal. The school will skip fall break and end the semester before Thanksgiving in order to prevent a potential second wave of the virus spreading on campus. It will increase cleaning measures, Covid-19 testing, and quarantine protocols while also encouraging social distancing and requiring masks.

Since March, students around the world have been taking classes online, but they have still paying a large sum of money to do so. This has caused significant petitioning and legal actions, as many think “Zoom university is not worth 50k a year.” However, 345 out of the surveyed 947 private 4-year colleges are at financial risk. This upcoming academic year, colleges could lose around 10% of their tuition revenue due to less enrollment and more discounts offered. Additionally, the amount of foreign students coming to American institutions could vary. Although they might save on salaries next year, many colleges will have to merge or seek closure in the next few years. Thus, in order to prevent thus, opening up in the fall seems like a good option: it allows students to get the education they desire and keep the universities afloat. 

However, the risk associated with colleges opening up again is high. Isolation is hard in dorms and classes, and constant testing is hard with such a large amount of students. Although college students are young and have a low mortality rate, the long-term effects from Covid-19 are unknown, and opening up so soon can be considered risky. Colleges and universities across the nation abruptly closed campuses in the spring, but opening in the fall does not eliminate the possibility of this happening again, especially with a potential resurgence. The University of Cambridge and California State University, amongst others, have announced that their campuses will remain closed for in-person instruction this fall. Money to open campuses safely is also a concern. CSU’s chancellor said how the university cannot afford to test everyone and track infected people at a rate that would make it safe enough for them to be on campus. The complete accuracy of testing is also a risk, especially with students living in close proximity of one another. Regardless of the economic implications, not returning to campus may be the safer choice. 

Colleges and universities are starting to inform students of their plans for the fall, but uncertainty remains. With major money, education, and safety questions at hand, students, families, and administrations are working to overcome the Covid-19 problems to ensure the best educational scenario for all. 

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