For the past few weeks, students have been eagerly refreshing their universities’ websites, seeking updates on the fate of their upcoming academic year. Universities are making difficult decisions (and amending those decisions) for the fall semester as COVID-19 case numbers steadily rise across the nation. Last semester, universities hurried to make the switch to an online format, disrupting instruction and campus life as students were suddenly sent home.

Now, U.S. schools are facing pressures to reopen. 

On July 9, Governor DeWine requested the allocation of $200 million in CARES Act funds to assist Ohio’s institutions of higher education with the expected costs of enhanced public health measures. 

Below are the fall 2020 semester plans, current as of July 27, 2020, for ten of Ohio’s largest schools based on enrollment size. For the most part, the schools are planning a combination of in-person and online instruction. Reductions in tuition and fees will not be common in the fall semester, and some schools are implementing unique ways to track their students’ health and to ensure social distancing.

University of Toledo

Fall policy: UT will resume on-campus residence in the fall. In-person instruction will continue for a majority of its classes, though most classes will be capped at 50 students to allow for social distancing. Instructors will use seating charts to seat students, and students will be “expected” to wear masks. Larger classes will use a mix of remote (real-time online classes), online (recorded instruction and online communication) and hybrid (limited in-person meetings supplemented with online sessions) instruction. In-person classes will end the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and final exams will be completed online.

Cost adjustments: There will not be a reduction in tuition.

Miami University

Fall policy: Miami University will welcome its students back to campus for a combination of in-person, hybrid, and online classes. During any in-person instruction, students will be required to wear face masks. Classes will end the week before Thanksgiving, and finals will be completed online. On-campus residence will resume, but the university’s administration warned students, “It is likely that your friend circle will need to be smaller this semester.”

Cost adjustments: None mentioned in reopening plans.

Bowling Green State University

Fall policy: This fall, BGSU will welcome its students back to campus, reopening its residence halls and resuming 70 percent of its in-person classes. These in-person classes will follow the hybrid format, which includes an online component to supplement face-to-face instruction and limit physical interaction between students. Like the University of Toledo, BGSU will use either the remote or online format for the rest of its classes. All classes and exams after Thanksgiving will be online. 

Cost adjustments: BGSU will not reduce tuition, but it will discount the housing and meal plan by 10 percent to account for the early pre-Thanksgiving end to the fall semester.

Case Western Reserve University

Fall policy: Sixty percent of CWRU’s fall semester classes will feature in-person instruction, some more than others. The remaining courses will primarily take the form of remote instruction. The university has established capacity limits for all learning spaces to ensure social distancing and will require all individuals to wear face masks indoors. Students are welcome to return to on-campus residence. In non-single rooms, “beds will be separated by at least 6 feet and oriented for maximum distance between heads.” Throughout the semester, students are expected to complete a “daily online symptom assessment,” which includes checking their own temperature.

Cost adjustments: No reductions in tuition mentioned, but the university will not charge room and board cancellation fees for the fall semester.

University of Cincinnati

Fall policy: The University of Cincinnati is preparing for four modes of instruction: in-person, online, hybrid, and HyFlex. For HyFlex classes, students will choose whether they want to attend each lecture in person or remotely. All classes after Thanksgiving will be attended remotely, and final exams will be completed online. Students will be allowed to live on campus during the fall semester. They are discouraged, however, from embarking on any personal international travel as they would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return.

Cost adjustments: None mentioned in reopening plans.

The Ohio State University

Fall policy: OSU’s plans for the fall semester include three forms of instruction: in-person, online, and hybrid. Classes with over 100 students will be taught online, with exceptions made for sessions that require small group in-person experiences, such as labs, studio sessions, and recitations. All classes after Thanksgiving will be taken online, as well as final exams. On-campus residence will resume. Students, faculty, and staff are expected to complete a daily self-administered health check and report the results, including body temperature, on the OSU mobile app. 

Cost adjustments: No reductions mentioned in reopening plans.

Kent State University

Fall policy: Students will return to Kent State in late August for a mix of in-person and remote classes. On-campus residence will resume. Classrooms have been adjusted to allow for social distancing. “For example, a classroom that typically has room for 180 students will have no more than 30 students for a fall course,” the university’s reopening plan states. Classes and finals after Thanksgiving will be online. 

Cost adjustments: There will be no reduction in tuition. Students who decide to leave campus Thanksgiving week and return at the end of January (for the spring semester) will be refunded some of the room and dining credit to account for their time off campus.

Columbus State Community College

Fall policy: Instruction at CSCC will be primarily remote. Exceptions will be made for classes requiring an in-person component. Instruction plans for individual classes are still being finalized.

Cost adjustments: No refund mentioned in current plans, but students experiencing financial hardship can apply for a Student Emergency Relief Grant offered by CSCC.

University of Akron

Fall policy: The University of Akron campus will reopen for on-campus residence and a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid classes. Post-Thanksgiving classes and finals will be online. Students will be allowed to attend labs and studios requiring in-person instruction. Faculty and students will be given disinfecting supplies to clean these learning spaces before and after class.

Cost adjustments: There will not be a reduction in tuition and fees. No refunds for room and board. However, the University will waive the $15 per credit hour fee normally charged for online courses.

Cuyahoga Community College

Fall policy: The fall semester will feature a mix of in-person and hybrid instruction. All classes and exams after Thanksgiving will be online. Tri-C is rearranging classrooms to allow for social distancing and installing “necessary plexiglass barriers” in classrooms and social spaces. 

Cost adjustments: None mentioned in reopening plans.

While most schools in Ohio plan to follow a hybrid model of instruction, some U.S. schools are announcing unique plans. Among them the impressive, peculiar or downright bizarre: 

Princeton is dividing its student body in half, with first year students and juniors attending the fall semester and sophomores and seniors returning in the spring. The University also differs in its plans for tuition as it intends to give students a 10 percent discount for the 2020-2021 year. 

Georgetown University is considering plans to lease a hotel near the school. This hotel would provide additional space for isolation, self-quarantining, and in-person classes. 

Rice University announced that it’s purchasing several large, open-sided tents to expand its available space and adopt social distancing measures. Students are encouraged to bring their own chairs.

Cielle Waters-Umfleet contributed to this article.


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