COVID-19 Roundup: More Universities Announce Online Plans

Rutgers, Harvard, Princeton and Georgetown announce mostly online fall terms while ICE says international students cannot study fully online and remain in U.S. Georgia system reverses course on masks.

July 7, 2020
 

Rutgers, Harvard, Princeton and Georgetown Universities on Monday announced plans for a largely online fall, following a similar announcement last week from the University of Southern California.

But a highly anticipated decision from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement means students from other countries who are studying in the U.S. will not be able take a fully online course load and remain in the country. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program allowed international students to take more online courses than normal for the spring and summer. But the new decision means students in fully online programs will need to transfer to a college with in-person courses or leave the U.S., ICE said. (Read more about this news here.)

Here is an update of developments on COVID-19's impact on higher education:

  • Harvard University announced Monday that its arts and sciences college, its largest, would bring freshmen and seniors back to campus in the fall but would deliver all instruction online throughout the 2020-21 academic year. (Harvard Business School said Monday that it would offer a mix of in-person and remote instruction; other colleges at Harvard have previously announced their plans for fall.) Among key elements of the Harvard College plan are that regular grading will return in the fall, and that students who receive financial aid and study remotely will get an extra $5,000 in "remote room and board" added to their aid packages.
  • Rutgers University said its fall term would feature mostly remotely delivered courses and a limited number of in-person classes, including courses in the arts, laboratory or fieldwork, and clinical instruction. On-campus housing at the university, New Jersey's flagship public institution, will be extremely limited, the university said in a statement. "We have wanted very fervently to be able to resume some version of a normal semester," Jonathan Holloway, Rutgers' president, said in the statement. "But given the continued increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, the near-term outlook for the public health crisis in our state, and the uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, we had to make a different decision."
  • Princeton University announced that undergraduates will be able to return to campus for one semester for the 2020-21 academic year -- first-year students and juniors in the fall, sophomores and seniors in the spring. Most academic instruction will remain online, Princeton said. And the university announced a 10 percent tuition discount for all undergraduates for this academic year, including those who study online and in-person. "Based on the information now available to us, we believe Princeton will be able to offer all of our undergraduate students at least one semester of on-campus education this academic year, but we will need to do much of our teaching online and remotely," Christopher L. Eisgruber, Princeton's president, said in a statement. “Both state law and public health guidance significantly restrict our options for the fall.”
  • Georgetown University said it planned to allow roughly 2,000 undergraduates to come to campus in the fall, including first-year students and those for whom it would be "impossible or unrealistic to pursue their studies at their permanent address." Those students will live in single rooms and be dispersed around campus residence halls, the university announcement said. If conditions allow, Georgetown said it would begin welcoming back other students, starting with seniors. "For our undergraduate students in residence on campus, some classes may be provided in-person. Some classes will be virtual. Our faculty are working to determine approaches for each individual class," the statement said. "Every in-person class will employ a hybrid and flexible approach that will enable a student, or the entire class, to continue in a virtual environment, if required by public health obligations. Students who prefer to pursue their education in a virtual mode this Fall will have the option to do so, absent any regulatory restrictions which may apply to a limited number of international students."
  • Rutgers did not announce any change in plans for its intercollegiate athletics program, saying decisions about the upcoming season would be guided by state requirements and policies by athletic conferences. Both Harvard and Princeton, however, said the Council of Ivy League Presidents plans to announce tomorrow a final decision on intercollegiate athletics this fall. But Harvard's statement said some limitations would be in effect for sports: "Even in the absence of this guidance, we acknowledge that our medium density plan will necessarily place limits on what athletic activities are possible at Harvard this fall."
  • The University System of Georgia, which had faced intense pressure from employees and some students, announced late Monday that it would in fact require "require all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities/buildings where six feet social distancing may not always be possible." The United Campus Workers of Georgia had circulated a petition and faculty members at Georgia Institute of Technology had criticized the system's approach of recommending but not requiring masks in campus buildings. In reversing course Monday, the system cited "recent changes" in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it was not clear which guidance its officials were referring to. Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, has vocally opposed the widespread imposition of requirements like the wearing of face masks, even as COVID-19 cases have spiked in the state.

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