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What Will College Look Like Come Fall Semester 2020?


May 21, 2020 3:18 PM
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
  As much uncertainty looms around the future of college openings and instruction, one thing is certain: The college landscape won't quickly and easily return to what it was pre-COVID-19...at least for a while. Here's a glimpse as to what college may look like in the near future and what students are hoping to experience in their upcoming semesters.

As much uncertainty looms around the future of college openings and instruction, one thing is certain: The college landscape won't quickly and easily return to what it was pre-COVID-19...at least for a while. Here's a glimpse as to what college may look like in the near future and what students are hoping to experience in their upcoming semesters.

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Modified Semesters & Return to On-Campus Learning

A common strategy being considered by many colleges is to forgo fall break and have students home before Thanksgiving in hopes of avoiding a "second wave" of COVID-19 infections, expected to emerge in late fall. Rice University was one of the first schools to implement and announce this strategy for the coming academic year - notifying its students that the fall semester would not include its usual fall break and that it would end at Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. Similarly, Notre Dame plans on starting its school year earlier to accommodate the schedule change. So far, students have responded positively to this proposed plan and express that they "want to be back on campus."

College Tuition Rates

In addition to college tuition discounts, a number of schools are freezing tuition in hopes of attracting more students and families in the face of COVID-19. Along with this comes possible incentives of deferred payment plans and guaranteed on-campus employment. If you still need help paying for college due to the coronavirus even after these discounts, apply for scholarships.

Remote & Hybrid Learning Options

Given the likelihood of a second wave of infections in the coming fall and winter, schools such as the California State University system announced that its 23 campuses would remain mostly closed while continuing to hold primarily online classes during the fall. Many community colleges have also expressed that they'll remain (mostly) virtual come fall semester, especially since their primary goal isn't about providing an on-campus residential experience. Some community colleges plan on offering a hybrid option and allowing students the flexibility to change how they attend class from week to week. The risk of reopening community colleges is also less given that, if the virus resurges, courses can go back to being completely online since they do not have on-campus housing.

More students are signing up or considering community colleges not only for the summer semester but also the fall - a strategy now known as the "corona swirl movement," particularly because they would rather spend less money on tuition if they have to take the courses online, anyways.

The New College Norm

Social distancing, face coverings, glove-wearing, and quarantining may become common practices at colleges that decide to reopen their campuses this fall and winter. Some are even considering designating dorm rooms for quarantining infected students and marking one-way paths to reduce outdoor interactions, according to the New York Times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance for colleges, though not specifically addressing when or whether colleges should resume in-person classes. The memo outlines practices that can be implemented to reduce the spread of the virus and promote a healthy student body, environment, and operations. Also, it advises on how colleges should address suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases on their campuses.

Students' Ultimate Desire

Enough about what colleges, universities and the government may want when it comes to the future of many students' college experiences. Students (like you) voiced their opinion in a recent survey titled "15 Fall Scenarios" and, of the three plausible scenarios, a hybrid option was the most popular for undergraduate students. This means that classes would take place in-person as well as online, and have three- to four-week block schedules (in-person). Students also expressed that they would transfer to another school if their college only offered online options. If you are a prospective or continuing college student, how do you want to experience college this coming fall semester and beyond?

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