Universities Consider Cancelling In-Person Classes Until 2021

by Cassandra Stone
Signs outside San Domenico private school show that the school has closed its campus to outside visi...
Ezra Shaw/Getty

Many universities nationwide are likely going to cancel in-person classes until next year

College students across the U.S. may not be returning to campus in the fall as the possibility of online learning as a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19 becomes more of a reality. Some universities are already canceling in-person classes until 2021.

Boston University has already come to a decision on the matter, stating “all in-person classes and other academic activities” have already been canceled during the summer term. Remote classes will take place, and “minimal housing and dining services” will be available. The school’s coronavirus “recovery plan” includes protocols for the upcoming school year, should school officials decide it’s unsafe for students to return in-person in the fall.

“The Recovery Plan recognizes that if, in the unlikely event that public health officials deem it unsafe to open in the fall of 2020, then the University’s contingency plan envisions the need to consider a later in-person return, perhaps in January 2021,” the university said in an online statement.

Boston University President Robert A. Brown is hopeful that the school would allow students to return on the fall, which he calls a “best-case scenario.” Until then would focus its efforts on finding “the best and safest way” to do that.

Jean Morrison, the provost and chief academic officer, tells NBC10 Boston that while suspending the fall semester is a possibility, it’s not the one they’re aiming for. “We’re focusing our planning on a fall return to campus,” she said.

Harvard is also considering many different scenarios and options for remote learning, should there still be a need to do so for the upcoming school year, according to CNN. A representative of Oregon State says the school is considering “every possible contingency” for students to return to school, and that, ultimately, “the coronavirus will determine what happens.”

The University of Arizona tells the Arizona Daily Star that, while the school is hopeful for business as usual in terms of a regular school year, they’re going to “prioritize the health and well-being of our community in making that decision.”

It’s heartbreaking to think of incoming college freshman, many of whom just made their post-graduation education plans in recent weeks. It’s likely they won’t get to experience the big campus move-in. High school seniors are really going through it in terms of missing out on many anticipated milestones — there’s certainly room to grieve for those moments and simultaneously acknowledge postponing or cancelling them is for the best.

Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and visiting scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tells CNN that the colleges are doing the right thing by preparing for all possibilities. “I think colleges should all definitely make plans for delaying start dates and for intermittent closings and reopenings, because epidemiology modeling suggests we may have to go into open and close waves until potentially even 2022.”