Princeton University was among the first to make the announcement: Fall 2020 won’t look like students had hoped and returning to campus won’t be as easy as unloading plastic totes brimming with dorm supplies on a hot August day.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging in many parts of the country, some New Jersey universities — including Rutgers and Princeton — have already decided not to bring many students back to campus, instead opting largely for a full plate of online classes. Many others, such as The College of New Jersey and Seton Hall University, are rolling the dice with a hybrid model.
And with the fall semester fast approaching — most colleges and universities are set to begin in late August — colleges in recent weeks have added to a chorus of instruction plans, on-campus quarantine protocols and housing proposals.
“This pandemic is a long-term crisis,” Princeton President Chris Eisgruber wrote in a July 6 letter to the campus community. “Though scientists throughout the world are working with unprecedented focus to find treatments and vaccines, there is no telling if or when they will succeed. We cannot simply sit on the sidelines and wait it out; we must all find ways to persist through it.”
New Jersey’s higher education office in June said universities would be required to submit restart plans addressing everything from student services and residence halls to faculty training and cleaning supply stocks at least two weeks before they begin fall instruction.
Four-year colleges and universities have already suffered from one pandemic-ridden semester. Campus closures in the spring prompted universities to refund some student fees. Volatile markets torpedoed endowment values. The monetary losses add up to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Even so, some larger schools froze or reduced tuition and fees for the fall semester, looking to mitigate expected enrollment declines. And a group of 10 public colleges in May encouraged the roughly 120,000 New Jersey residents studying out of state to transfer to in-state schools in the wake of the pandemic, promising quick application review and guaranteed housing.