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Hanging on through the Rollercoaster of College Re-Opening Plans for Fall 2020

The pandemic is a volatile situation and with it comes major concerns for the future of higher education. But the top question on everyone’s mind is, 

How will universities open up this fall? 

University presidents and administrators have been monitoring the situation and some have come to a decision about the fall 2020 coursework. Let’s take a closer look at how some schools are looking to re-open. 

What are the options?

Colleges and Universities across the country are busy making plans for what the fall 2020 semester will look like. In reality, these institutions have three options:

  1. Plan for in-person instruction
  2. Move to a fully online platform
  3. Implement hybrid options

None of these options are perfect and each will come with important administrative, financial, and learning consequences. The Chronicle of Higher Education published new research on over 1,000 college’s reopening plans. As of July 7, 2020, 59% of universities are planning for in-person classes while 25% are developing a hybrid model, and only 8% have announced plans for a full virtual curriculum. 

But on that same day (July 7) Inside Higher Ed reported that Harvard, Princeton, and Georgetown announced plans to move forward with a mostly online semester. In fact, Harvard’s largest college, Arts and Science, would deliver exclusive online education for the 2020-2021 term. The business school is planning to go the hybrid route but that is subject to change. 

This decision could lead to massive change and consequences for other school’s re-opening plans. This same article discussed plans for Rutgers and the University System of Georgia who now have plans for a largely online academic calendar. 

Most schools want to bring students back to campus but are adopting a conservative approach. The University System of Georgia, for example, is requiring all faculty, administrators, staff, and students to wear face coverings inside campus buildings. Some universities like Princeton and Rutgers have plans to bring some students back in the fall (freshman and juniors) and others in the spring (sophomores and seniors). 

But each school is structuring its plan a bit differently. Brown University announced that they will move to a three-term academic calendar for 2020-2021 as opposed to the traditional 2-semester term. They plan on having students on campus of 2 out of 3 of those terms in order to limit the number of students there at a time. They even said that courses with more than 20 students will be offered remotely. 

Will this impact financial aid?

A concern for many students is how reopening plans, especially online instruction, will impact their financial aid. For Harvard students, the university will add an extra $5,000 in remote room and board to their aid packages. This could be instrumental in gaining the proper access to technology, the internet, and other resources needed to fully embrace an online course load.

Princeton is also offering undergraduate students a 10% discount on their tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year. Start to look at your client’s school systems to see if they are revising financial aid packages for the fall semester. 

A note for international students

A controversial decision made by the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that international students were unable to take a fully online course load and remain in the United States. This has many students concerned about getting their visas renewed, especially as schools are still narrowing down their re-opening plans. 

The Student Exchange and Visitor program tried to allay some concerns by increasing the volume of online coursework international students could take in the summer, but this new rule implemented by ICE can have many unsettling effects for students and universities.

For international students to remain in the country, this might mean transferring to an institution that is not online only instruction to remain in good standing, and in other cases, it will mean leaving the U.S. Keep in mind this rule is still applicable even if the university campus remains open. 

This rule becomes even more important as re-opening plans aren’t set in stone. While some universities may have in-person classes in the fall, they might not have that same structure in the spring, which leaves international students in a vulnerable position. 

Students would be able to remain in the country if their institution offers a hybrid learning experience, which many universities are looking into. 

What comes next?

Each school’s reopening plan will look slightly different. Below are just some examples. 

  • Students returning to campus and to what degree
  • Campus activities
  • Sports
  • Online, hybrid, or in-person class load
  • Financial aid
  • Student loans
  • Social distancing, face coverings, and other health precautions

No matter what happens, it is important that you stay up-to-date on your client’s school’s reopening plans so you can help guide them through these uncertain times. 

Know that you aren’t in this alone and have someone in your corner. Our community at College Aid Pro is here to help you feel confident and empowered as you navigate the college planning space, even now. Stay tuned for more updates on reopening plans.

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