BALTIMORE, Md. — College students anxiously are waiting to find out what a return to school will look Like this fall after a spring semester which was shaken up by the coronavirus.
The start of a new school year brings students new classes, new professors, and new friends but there's something else new about the college experience this year.
Even though the start of school for many college students is less than two months away, much of what campus life will look like is still unknown.
Morgan State University vice president of student affairs Dr. Kevin Banks said “how are we going to socially distance the campus, our dining halls, our resident halls? What is the right mix of single rooms, as well as double rooms in an apartment scenario where you can achieve social distancing?”
Banks is tasked with deciding much of what students will experience on campus.â but his job takes on a different meaning during COVID-19.
“We just want to make sure we’re maintaining the safest environment as possible. We’re looking at limiting the number of students in a classroom, de-densifying the classroom environment and the residence halls,” Banks said.
Social distancing at the start of the pandemic had students getting their education from a distance, online. The same method will continue in the fall at many schools.
“The ideal solution was to make sure that all of the classes have the option to go remote and online and look at where we may have to create additional sections for students,” Banks said.
University of the Potomac president and CEO Dr. Clinton Gardner said “these schools are going to be under intense pressure to reopen if they can, in a safe manner in the fall, due to issues of tuition, and how that impacts the revenue and the budget, as well as housing.”
Students used to living on campus might find themselves in a new home away from home.
“We’ve gone out and secured more single room apartments for our upper classmen students, as well as a local area hotel to de-densify the rooms on campus and have more single room accommodations,” Banks said.
Gardner recognizes even once college campuses reopen this fall, some students might not come back.
“There will be some students who will decide to take what we call a gap year. They'll decide not to go to school this fall, and they'll do something else that could be work, that could be travel, it could be a variety of things,” Gardner said.
For those who decide to return to school, keeping up with the many changes on campus could be as challenging as keeping up with their studies.
“We have a parental portal that we’re communicating with families and parents, so that they’re informed of the changes that are going on,” Banks said.
“On a peer level, I think, sometimes using the students to communicate with one another important information is probably more effective,” Banks said.
Despite the many changes happening on campus, once change students shouldn't expect any time soon is a drop in tuition rates.
“Historically, higher education has been able, for the most part, to increase tuition rates on an annual basis, somewhere between three and five percent. There's no catalyst to that this year,” Gardner said.
“With the intense pressure that colleges and universities are under, it's going to be very difficult for anyone in this environment to increase tuition costs for students,” Gardner added.