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What Will Colleges Look Like in the Fall Semester?

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Colleges across the country have shifted to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, higher education colleges and universities are trying to determine what their fall semesters will look like.

Nearly all are toying with contingency plans. Some models, like one proposed by Boston University, have the fall semester running on a delayed schedule, beginning in January. Other colleges may pursue a hybrid model where lectures are taught virtually but seminars are in-person.

On May 5, Harvard President Lawrence Bacon said the college is unlikely to “return to normal” by September.

“It’s pretty clear to all of us that we are unlikely to see things return to normal, ex ante, by September. People are just working nonstop as we sort through the alternatives as we plan for the fall, reimagining new ways to be excellent," he said.

Harvard has said it will reach a final decision no later than July.

Meanwhile, a number of colleges have announced they are not increasing the cost of tuition. Typically, tuition rises about 3% a year. However, many universities are worried that students simply won't return should remote learning continue. And the economic toll the coronavirus on higher education is massive; most colleges and universities are tuition dependent.

Experts agree that colleges, with their dorm parties and sporting events, may not return to normal for a long time. In an op-ed for The New York Times, the president of Brown University, Christina Paxson, described the following: “…athletics events taking place in empty stadiums, recital halls with patrons spaced rows apart and virtual social activities replacing parties.”

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