COVID-19’s Effect on Education: Will Colleges Return in the Fall?

The new question circulating the country: will colleges resume normal instruction in the fall?

Amidst the chaos of the coronavirus, many colleges across the US are planning for the worst: another year of online learning. Preparations are being made due to the fact that this virus could resurface in the fall. While talk has circled around the country, many different ideas are being investigated in order to produce the safest, most efficient way around this pandemic. 

The first school to hit the news: Boston University. Located in the heart of the city, Boston University, known as BU, is a private college within Massachusetts and serves almost 36,000 students. Forbes reported that BU might not resume regular action on its 169 acre campus this coming fall. Instead, it would continue online learning and hopefully reopen its doors in January 2021. Many false reports stated that many Massachusetts universities would completely cancel their fall semester, but that idea has been abandoned. Furthermore, BU’s “Recovery Committee” believes that it is unlikely they will have to postpone the in-person learning, but are preparing for the worst. 

A map of Boston’s colleges and universities

Other schools in the New England area such as Brown University, the University of Massachusetts system, MIT, and Harvard have begun to make plans regarding the return of students. Many factors in this decision include statements about large gatherings, available COVID-19 testing and current conditions. If students are not able to come back in the fall, the economy of college towns would suffer greatly. Boston, like most cities, thrives off of the economic prosperity that students bring to the city. Unlike many other college towns, Boston is home to over 35 higher-education institutes. With an extended break due to COVID-19, Boston will suffer more than other cities, which will be tough to fix down the road. Moreover, trends showing the virus’s preference to colder regions emphasize the need for northern schools to plan meticulously before the fall. However, do not count against the need for preparation more locally, like in South Carolina. 

Schools such as the College of Charleston, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina have made statements regarding their plans. While they are not detailed, they are mostly on the same page: all schools remain online through the summer semesters and all campuses are closed. Some students are allowed in their on-campus housing (for specific circumstances), but most are encouraged to self-quarantine at home. Additionally, they have not released any new information regarding instruction in the fall, but this is without surprise, as South Carolina is typically one of the last states to make any announcements. 

As of now, students need to prepare for anything. There is a chance plans could shift dramatically in the fall, but it is unlikely that we will know anything anytime soon. By watching the patterns of the virus, the number of cases in each state and country, and following specific orders, the possibility for a fall move-in seems likely. Furthermore, using data from the CDC and other government centers, COVID-19’s peak seems to be soon, but we still must be wise now in order to go back to normal later. In the wise words of Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation, “Sometimes you gotta work a little, so you can ball a lot.”