Universities could see delayed semesters or online classes as final call on fall semesters remains pending

While most universities are delaying final decisions on what can take place, some universities are already hinting at what could come

                            Universities could see delayed semesters or online classes as final call on fall semesters remains pending
(Getty Images)

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has disrupted lives, especially those of students who were set to attend university this fall. Many students who have already received admits or are waiting on results are anxious about whether the pandemic would affect how and when universities will conduct their fall semesters.

While most universities are delaying final decisions on what can take place, some universities are already hinting at what could come, including moving completely online for fall semesters or even delaying the start of the semester to January 2021.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counselling (NACAC), 52 percent of colleges have extended their usual May 1 deadline for students to accept an offer of admission for Fall 2020 as of April 9. 

Universities have also closed information sessions and tours for prospective students due to lockdown measures, while universities like Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have closed their admissions offices indefinitely, though they continue to process applications.

University of Southern Carolina's President, Bob Caslen told the university's board of trustees committee that the institution is aiming to make decisions about operations for fall semester "on or about May 15, but no later than June 15."

The University of Texas will announce its fall plans by June, while Yale University will make the decision by July.

Students walk through Yale University on September 27, 2018, in New Haven, Connecticut (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

Certain universities still intend on functioning normally by the fall semester. Brown University's President Christina Paxson told the Wall Street Journal that she sees no reason why classes shouldn't start in September, but believes that some students will opt to take classes from home.

Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University said that it intends to conduct the fall semester on campus with a full student population. Some universities are also planning on scholarships and deferred payments for the academic year of 2020-2021.

Southern New Hampshire University said that campus-based first-years would get a scholarship covering the entirety of tuition for the coming academic year. Davidson College in North Carolina is letting students defer paying their tuition for the upcoming academic year for a full calendar year.

Other universities intend to move completely to remote-learning based classes for the new academic year, including San Jose State University, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and California State University in Fullerton.

However, some universities doubt the situation will be "back to normal" by fall this year. University of Pittsburgh chancellor Patrick Gallagher told campus leaders that "back to normal probably is not likely" in the absence of a vaccine for COVID-19 or general population immunity.

Stanford, Harvard, and Boston University also consider pushing the fall semester to January 2021.

Students walk through Harvard Yard on the campus of Harvard University on March 12, 2020, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Robert Massa, who teaches about higher education at the University of Southern California and former Dean of Admissions at Johns Hopkins University and Dickinson College told the Conversation that the strongest universities to get into are "likely to have longer waitlists this year, primarily because of the uncertainty surrounding international students and whether they will be able to travel to the US."

Moreover, Massa believes that colleges will be likely to offer students more money in an effort to get them to enroll. He added, "Schools may offer bigger scholarships to students who decline an opportunity to enroll."

Massa also believes that more need-based aid will be available for prospective students. Massa said, "Due to COVID-19, income earned in the first quarter of 2020 may not predict a family’s total 2020 income.

For that reason, it will be important for families to work with the financial aid office of the colleges on their list to help them take a lower family income into account when calculating the family’s eligibility for financial aid."

Final decisions by most universities are expected by the end of July 2020. In the meantime, the NACAC has tools for students to track potential changes. The College Admission Status Update compiles in one place campus changes to college admission due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Secondary Schools College Admission Services Update provides information on the challenges of providing high school students with guidance at a time when many schools are closed or disrupted.

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