As the fall semester approaches, the threat of the Covid-19 shows no signs of letting up. Universities are scrambling to make last minute decisions on how their campuses will resume operations, leaving students to wonder how their college life will differ, or what to even expect in the next couple of months. While most things still remain uncertain, one thing looks pretty clear- millions of students across the country will not have the “normal” college experience in 2020. And possibly for many years to come.
So how could your college change this fall? Here’s what we know so far.
On Campus Classes
If a school decides that the prevalence of Covid-19 is low enough to resume on campus operations, experts have recommended certain “gating conditions” that the school should abide by. Schools would have to make sure they had the capacity to test all students and as frequently as necessary. Teaching and reinforcing the use of masks, routine cleaning and disinfecting, employing contact tracing and closing communal dining and residence halls would also be recommended. As for classes themselves, those large lecture halls packed with students, the ones you see in every college movie or tv scene? Gone. The CDC is recommending every student to be sat 6 feet apart, with seats and rows taped off. Lab and interactive activities, may also be put on hold.
If there is one thing that was integral to the college experience it was on campus housing, for many, it’s the first time you are living on your own, outside of the family home. It’s a positive transition into adulthood as well as a chance to meet new people on campus and make new friends. It can still be all of these things, but the traditional dorm was not made for social distancing. Some colleges will be moving to single rooms only, instead of doubles and triples. Community bathrooms and common areas furnished with couches and TVs that were designed for congregating, could be phased out completely. There is also the issue that most schools are taking a financial hit this year and there are less resources to even consider renovating or building new housing. So the question may not be how will dorm living change on your campus, but will it even be offered?
Off Campus Housing
If social distancing is fully enforced in campus dorms, many students may opt for off campus housing this school year. Off campus units are set up differently, with 2- 3 private bedrooms, private bathrooms, which allow for an arguably safer living condition, but without being completely secluded the entire school year. And the amenities themselves (should they be open) could lure students away from dorms, as many communities have pools, gyms, basketball courts and even ice skating rinks, at comparable prices to on-campus living. Even schools themselves are pushing for off campus housing, looking to get out of the housing business completely and use the space and land for any campus expansion that’s been needed.
Budget cuts are running rampant right now, and students may find that certain electives and activities that were offered to them in the past, are no longer. This could mean that sports like golf or track are eliminated. Even Division 1 schools are cutting back, with 19 schools including Cincinnati and Stanford removing dozens of sports programs. No schools, however, have eliminate their basketball or football programs, as a money-saving measure.
In addition to sports cuts, fraternity and sorority rush may be on hold, impacting a new student’s opportunity to make new friends, and again have the “normal” college experience.
This may be the most obvious change to a college student’s 2020 school year and possibly many years to come, if colleges decide to permanently keep their virtual setups. Most colleges will move their courses online, even as a final resort and to the dismay of students who feel cheated out of a real campus, with tuition unchanged. Some schools may allow students to return and take classes alone in their dorms, but with the aggressive social distancing measures in place on campus or a fear in general of Covid-19, most students will likely remain at home.