Will Colleges Re-Open this Fall?
It’s an Open and Shut Case. Not.
Colleges in the US have been quick to respond to the Corona Virus pandemic. Many made arrangements for their international students to go back to their home countries. But the shut-down is now being seen as the easy part. The question staring the college administrators in the face is: how do we get students back on campus?
There are reports which suggest that some colleges plan to re-open this fall but with considerable measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission. But isn’t the fall semester too soon to resume in-person lectures? Should you pack your bags yet? Read on before you make plans for fall 2020.
College Re-Opening in the Fall
There are a few colleges like the Northeastern University and Hampshire College that have rolled out plans to re-open their campus this fall. According to Hampshire College President, the institution has a significant advantage in this situation as they already have single rooms in their dormitories. Also, the college didn’t take classes in spring 2019 which has helped reduce the student density of their campus.
Unfortunately, most other colleges and universities will have to work towards similar measures if they want to re-open for fall 2020. The likes of Princeton University, Harvard University, Yale, Stanford, and MIT are said to be finetuning their fall reopening plan.
However, international students who are unable to travel during the COVID are unlikely to be able to attend in-person classes, even if the colleges re-open.
Students Revolting Against Online Classes
To prevent transmission, universities have sent students home, vacated dorm rooms and cancelled spring sports. Everything has been moved online. That move comes with its own set of challenges.
The novelty of online classes is dying away, giving way to resentment. Students feel that the transition has been discomforting and they lack the same level of motivation and engagement while attending lectures online.
This is cited as the major reason for the colleges to work towards a fall re-opening plan.
For many students and parents alike, the idea of paying the same tuition fee for another online semester is a hard bullet to bite. There are several cases of students/parents asking for refunds or fee-cuts, as the campus semester was abruptly shortened due to the pandemic. While their demand seems reasonable, this can have an adverse financial impact on college resources.
45 Million Tests Needed for Opening US Colleges
So how can this work? Colleges first need to work on a multi-fold program, involving extensive logistical solutions, if they want to re-open this fall. Some of the most critical aspects of this program include the testing, tracing, and isolation of the students.
There are around 20 million college-going students in the US, along with around 1 million faculty and college staff. So, just for this fall semester, more than 45 million tests, including retests, would be required. To add to the enormity of this herculean task, colleges have no or limited access to reliable testing kits.
Is it Really an Open and Shut Case?
Another dilemma facing colleges comes from the fact that several medical experts expect a second-wave of the novel coronavirus. Even if they re-open this fall, they may be required to shut down their campuses again. This could lead to a double whammy of a complex logistical nightmare and financial loss.
Campus Re-Opening Only in 2021?
There are ongoing talks of fall re-opening, but most colleges still don’t have a definitive plan. While some of the colleges have rolled out their re-opening plans, the majority would mostly stick to the online format for the fall semester. In fact, there are reports which suggest that some of the colleges have already decided to NOT re-open their campuses until 2021.
While the COVID-19 curve is showing signs of flattening in the US, a second wave is ‘inevitable’ according to some experts. The health of the students and the faculty would definitely be the top priority for colleges. There are rising financial concerns amongst a host of other problems.
In such a scenario, colleges are hesitant to announce their next steps. Students and parents are in a waiting game.
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