TOWSON, Md. — “It’s exciting,” said Towson University freshman Erich Miller.
“I’m excited, nervous… it’s like mixed emotions. You just cannot explain it,” said TU freshman Emmanuel Heavnson.
The first big college move-ins in two years are underway. Campuses are welcoming students back and breaking records.
Towson’s freshman class is the most diverse is the school’s history and Morgan State is welcoming its largest class in its history.
“We are expecting almost a 100% increase in the number of new students at Morgan over 2019. That is phenomenal,” said David Wilson, President of Morgan State University.
At Loyola University Maryland, professors are looking forward to face-to-face instruction.
“I’m just so excited to be sitting in a room together. It makes a huge difference,” said Communications instructor Jenny Glick.
But classes will look different. Many campuses, including Morgan, Towson, and Loyola, are requiring face masks indoors and proof of vaccination.
“We have a vaccination rate well over 90 percent on our campus so it really is a game changer,” said Dr. Vernon Hurte, Vice President for Student Affairs at Towson.
“We’ll have close to 100 percent of our students that are in congregate living fully vaccinated,” said Wilson. “For those who have been approved for exemptions, they will be part of a testing cadence two times a week.”
Students and staff have to upload their vaccine cards to be authenticated. Towson has also added health center staff and built a testing facility on campus.
“When we have a student who may be positive, we have quarantine and isolation space that’s available on campus. We work with the Baltimore County Health Department with any contact tracing that’s required,” said Hurte.
At Towson, unvaccinated students and staff, even with exemptions, have to complete daily screenings and get tested twice a week. If not, they could face termination or suspension.
The new protocols are easing the minds of freshman anxious to get their college careers started.
“If they’re letting us, there’s only a safe point you can get to. You take the risk being here,” said Miller.
“With the new mask mandate, everything is looking safe with COVID so I’m pretty excited,” said Heavnson.
But COVID hasn’t only impacted health requirements; it has impacted academics too.
Loyola permanently moved its Master of Science in Data Science program fully online starting this fall.
“The program moved online more than a year ago in response to the pandemic, and its success online reinforced a permanent move,” said Christopher Morrell, director of the program. “Offering the data science master’s program fully online has opened the door for more people to acquire the skillset needed for this career path.”
Glick also changed up some of her journalism classes to focus on the impacts of the pandemic.
“It’s impossible really to avoid it in classes where you’re talking about anything that’s happening in our contemporary world,” said Glick.
It’s also impossible to avoid the idea that classes may need to pivot. Loyola faculty are designing their classes to allow for an easy transition to online instruction if needed, such as if a significant number of students are in quarantine.