Coronavirus Impact: Will Colleges Reopen for Fall 2020 Semester?


The spring semester of 2020 will be very memorable for college students across the country. As campuses closed, students pivoted into becoming online-only students. As we progress into summer, and college orientations being moved online, we start thinking about August. Will the coronavirus keep campuses closed? Will colleges reopen for fall 2020 or for the rest of the year at all?

Forbes recently published an article documenting Boston University’s reluctant admission that they are already looking at postponing the fall 2020 semester (Apr. 13). The article, entitled “Boston University Is First To Announce It May Postpone Its Fall Term Until January 2021,” has received a lot of buzz around parents’ boards and higher education circles. What IF students aren’t going back to school in August? What about tuition and dorms and their lives?

We stress the headline included the word “may.”

While BU might be the first and largest school to publicly announce they’re making plans for a postponed semester, or another online semester, they are definitely not alone.

Richard Ekman, president of the non-profit Council of Independent Colleges, says that some of the 659 colleges in his group have begun quietly to consider whether they too will have to postpone campus openings. Some are discussing start date delays of a month. Others are looking at more extended closures. “They’re all waiting to get better health information,” he says.

Forbes, Boston University Is First To Announce It May Postpone Its Fall Term Until January 2021

Before you start losing sleep or freaking out over this, let’s look at the facts.

Colleges Don’t Do Anything Quickly

The mid-March closures and online learning jumpstart was absolutely miraculous, for every university. As someone who has taught and worked in higher education, please trust me when I tell you that universities aren’t known for immediate, large-scale decisions. There are dozens of offices, hundreds of staff members, and thousands of students to consider for any big decision. Even moving something like orientation back a week can have massive repercussions.

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So please understand that your child’s professors are working overtime to make sure their students are still receiving quality education. Many of them are still trying to find the best methods to teach online. By starting a more robust plan now for fall 2020, they’ll be able to get trained and ready a little bit more.

Your Student’s Safety

At the core of a postponement or continued online instruction is simply safety. Thousands of students packed into lecture halls or dorms is absolutely bad social distancing. And we don’t know yet what we will be facing in four months.

Additionally, different schools have different needs, and they’re in a variety of locations. So putting together a Plan B, Plan C, and even Plan K or L is just smart. Be thankful for their oversight now, and prepare for the possibilities.

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Plan now for something that may not happen, but be thankful that you did it.

What should students do in the meantime? Stay on top of communications from their college or university. Chat with friends often. Treat online school as “real school” because it is. And let’s all stay healthy by doing our parts now. That alone can help colleges reopen this year. Other than that, give the college and university administrations time and support, and wait and see.

Visit our special coronavirus article page.

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