What will US universities look like in the fall?

school reopening
Could this be the new normal when universities reopen for the new academic year? Source: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

As university students around the world wonder about their school reopening after COVID-19, several institutions in the US have begun announcing their plans to return to campus.

This includes New York University, Saint Francis University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Florida Institute of Technology.

Others are considering a range of options, including in-person classes, online learning, or a hybrid model of both. These institutes are considering all factors before formally announcing a date for their school reopening. Among them are Cornell University and Brown University.

Study International got in touch with Florida Institute of Technology and Brown University to find out how each is navigating these plans.

school reopening

Many US universities are leaning towards starting the fall semester with a hybrid model involving both in-person and online instruction. Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Preparing for all possibilities of school reopening

Brown spokesperson Brian Clark clarified that the administration is “planning for multiple scenarios with the intent to make a final decision by July 15”.

The university website details three scenarios. In the first, all students would be able to return in fall to follow the normal academic calendar. Alternatively, Brown could offer three semesters of instruction next year, staggering undergraduate students who would only attend two semesters.

The third scenario envisions unfavourable health conditions. This would call for the fall semester to be conducted remotely. Brown would then decide how to proceed in the spring semester by mid-fall.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, any on-campus scenario will include smaller classes and hybrid online and in-person learning.

school reopening

Universities that reopen in fall must do so following the guidelines of federal, state, and authorities. Source: Robyn Beck/AFP

Designing the “new normal” on campus

Over at Florida Tech, President T. Dwayne McCay announced the school reopening via a campus-wide e-mail. He confirmed that Florida Tech plans to resume normal operations August 10 when faculty report and students begin moving into residence halls.

Director of Media Communications Adam Lowenstein told Study International that courses progressed smoothly online. Besides that, student welfare was cared for, with a small number of students remaining in residence halls over campus closure.

He added, “We granted eligible students credits for housing and meal plans for up to the last seven weeks of the Spring 2020 academic term.”

Like many other universities in the US, Florida Tech has had to take “prudent but painful” measures to deal with consequences of the pandemic. This included cancelling the football programme and finalising the closure of the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts this year.

After celebrating spring commencement virtually, Florida Tech is confident to begin formulating a “new normal” for fall.

As McCay wrote, “Florida Tech will continue with extra sanitisation steps, modified social distancing, and other measures necessary to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We will be flexible as the situation requires. The health of all remains a top priority.”

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