The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of the world, including how businesses operate to how institutions of higher education function. The big question continues to linger, “Will colleges open in the fall?”
With each passing day, the data and severity of the pandemic changes, and as such, policies and plans do, too. However, as we get close to the start of the fall 2021 semester, it looks as though some colleges are looking to open, but with guidelines and restrictions in place.
While nothing is for certain, we will share some of the information that is available to the public at this point in time.
Are Colleges Opening in the Fall?
Many colleges do plan to open this fall for in-person instruction. Although they share that the pre-COVID life of a student won’t be attainable just yet, there is an urge and promise to return back to normal again.
Additionally, if students return to campus and don’t follow guidelines, then there could be consequences like suspension. At the same time, students have to consider the cost of attending in-person institutions that may run the chance of moving online at some point during the year, if the pandemic worsens.
Will COVID Vaccines Be Required?
With doors potentially opening, some colleges are requiring that their students be vaccinated in order to return to campus. There are over 200 colleges that have already stipulated that requirement, and the number is likely to increase as we move closer to the start of the school year. Some private schools that are on this list include: Notre Dame, NYU, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Yale.
In terms of public institutions, there are less that are requiring the vaccine mandate in comparison to private schools. Some of these schools include: the University of Massachusetts, Cal State University, and the University of California.
Some schools are wary of requiring the vaccine until the vaccines receive complete FDA approval. They are currently made available under emergency use authorization. As such, they will either open with mask requirements and social distancing in place, or continue to operate online.
What You Can Expect as Students: Guidelines to Follow
On college campuses that choose to open, there are guidelines in place that are geared towards limiting the spread of the virus.
- Wearing a mask indoors
- Getting testing frequently
- Getting vaccinated (as we mentioned, some colleges are requiring it)
- Limiting social gatherings
- Restricting large parties / events
Based on the guidelines alone, it’s clear to see that traditional campus environments as the world once knew them are no longer the reality. While the situation may eventually return back to the past, it will certainly take some time.
Conditions to Keep College Doors Open
With or without vaccinated students, colleges that do plan to reopen in the fall will subscribe to certain contingencies in order to keep the doors open throughout the year. These include:
- Safeguards to reduce the spread
- Required masking and contract tracing
- Witnessing a downward trend in the incidence of the virus
- Constant monitoring of infected people
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, institutions of higher education (IHEs) that have a fully vaccinated population (students, faculty, and staff) can return to in-person learning at full capacity. In this case, they wouldn’t be required to wear masks or social distance.
However, if there is a mixed population of some vaccinated and some unvaccinated people (which is likely to be the case if vaccines aren’t made to be a requirement for attendance), then the institutions themselves are in control of their own decision-making to protect their students, faculty, and staff.
The CDC believes that IHEs can play a big role in promoting and providing vaccinations to help schools return to in-person instruction. They can do so by offering vaccination sites on campus, promoting vaccines, hosting mass vaccination clinics, and allowing flexible sick leave or excused absences after vaccination, if need be.
Scenarios for Higher Academia
While the future of COVID-19 is uncertain, there are consultancy firms and research organizations that are working towards helping IHEs plan for what’s yet to come and evaluate their situations.
For example, a presentation out of Deloitte shares some potential scenarios that may come to be for institutions of higher education as a result of the pandemic.
Although the pandemic is a less-than-ideal situation, it does present some opportunities like:
- Increased resiliency and better risk-planning methods
- A new look at where institutions should plan to invest money, including athletic and research investments
- A reason to more closely review the institution’s financial health and cut costs as needed
- The necessity to consider how to adapt the student experience and foster a “sense of belonging” that serves as a primary driver for the students’ experience, success, and enrollment
- A need to align academic teaching with real-world workforce skills and training
- A potential shift to higher enrollment in vocational and trade schools as opposed to liberal arts subjects
Interestingly, Deloitte’s outlook also considers how the pandemic has ushered in an increased demand for online education. Even if an institution decides to remain in-person, it’s likely to require some online learning and instruction (known as hybrid learning).
Given the uncertainty, students may opt for online learning over in-person settings in order to stay better protected, be digitally prepared, and continue to earn their degree without so much uncertainty and constantly changing rules and regulations.
A Safe Bet: Fully Online Education
At the University of the People, we have always taken pride in our ability to offer affordable and accessible education to students around the world. Since we have always operated 100% online, with or without the pandemic, education always goes on.
Students have the option to enroll part-time or full-time to earn any of our four degrees – Health Science, Education, Computer Science, and Business Administration. Plus, all of our programs are tuition-free!
A Look Ahead
The future of COVID and its impacts on higher education is filled with variables and uncertainty. However, institutions of higher education are doing their best to remain agile and adapt in order to preserve the best interests of their students, faculty, and staff.
In some cases, in-person campuses plan to open back up in the fall. For others, they may instead stick to online learning or a hybrid approach. While some institutions are mandating vaccinations to return, others are allowing their attendees to make their own decision on the matter.
In any case, you always have the option to enroll at the University of the People to earn your degree online, tuition-free, and at your own pace.