National College Decision Day arrives this year on Saturday, May 1. With the pandemic still lingering, many parents may wonder what college life will look like in the fall. Just over a year ago, students anticipated receiving college acceptance letters with the expectation of participating in a vibrant on-campus experience.
As COVID-19 cases surged and the world shut down, many students had to face the reality of experiencing their first college classes from home or in their dorm rooms. During the fall of 2020, only 4% of colleges returned to fully in-person classes according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
However, early into 2021, with the increase of vaccine production and growing knowledge of COVID-19, universities across the country are announcing their plans to reopen in the fall. In short, many colleges are taking steps toward normalcy.
Although we are still months away from the start of the 2021 fall semester, here’s what parents can expect from colleges and universities.
More in-person classes will be offered. What we’ve learned over the course of the year is the necessity for face-to-face instruction. A national study on the effects of COVID-19 found that 42% of college students struggled to stay motivated in their online courses. The Brookings Institution found the decision to move classes online affected the most vulnerable students, particularly low-income students. Some students might have enjoyed a more flexible schedule, but it left others behind.
As a college president, I know firsthand the value of face-to-face instruction. While we offered in-person classes with a hybrid model in the 2020-21 academic year, faculty members and students have expressed they are eager to get off of Zoom and have everyone back together in the classroom again.
For the upcoming fall semester at Southeastern University, we will be providing in-person classes at full capacity.
The on-campus experience will be close to normal. With the University of Alabama announcing their expectations to offer in-person classes at full capacity, in addition to a full football stadium, many other colleges will likely follow suit.
At Southeastern, we offered many on-campus experiences, including athletic games and student events while following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We had capacity restrictions for events and offered virtual options as well. While we look forward to providing fewer limitations, we plan to also offer virtual alternatives.
Safety will still be a top priority. Experts have warned the virus is not going anywhere and we are still learning more about the variants.
It’s too early to tell if universities will require social distancing and wearing masks in the fall. However, as a college president, I can promise you that safety will be our top priority.
The majority of college campuses have put teams with key leaders from their campus in place who are working in response to COVID-19.
The team at Southeastern continues to monitor the guidance provided by the CDC and guidelines of local, state and national health departments.
You can expect those teams to provide more specific details on what protocols will be in place as we get closer to the start of the fall semester.
Precautions may differ by college. For instance, some colleges have announced they will require students to be tested before they arrive on campus and undergo weekly tests once there.
On the other hand, with vaccinations becoming more readily available, we don’t anticipate testing students at Southeastern when they return in the fall.
There are also discussions on whether or not universities will require students to be vaccinated. This issue could impose on individual liberties, so most universities are holding off on making a decision until they receive guidance from the government.
Universities are likely to highly encourage students and employees to be vaccinated but not make vaccination a requirement.
Over the next few months, you can expect to hear more detailed plans from universities across the country.
One thing is for sure, the return to a more normal campus life looks promising.