(CBS) Across the country, the nearly 20 million university students returning to school can expect a very different college experience this fall. As universities try to figure out what to do amid rising coronavirus cases in several states, President Donald Trump tweeted that “schools must open in the fall.”
Mr. Trump is hosting an event Tuesday to discuss reopenings with K-through-12 and higher education professionals, students and parents.
Elan Zohar, a rising junior at Princeton University in New Jersey, plans to take his college classes nearly 7,000 miles from campus. After traveling to South Korea for an internship earlier this year, he’s decided to stay.
“I don’t know if it would be the best idea to go back and, you know, completely expose myself in that environment, if people — if not everyone’s going to take it seriously, including college students,” Zohar said.
At Princeton, students will be allowed on campus for one semester of the academic year — freshmen and juniors in the fall, sophomores and seniors in the spring. Administrators say most of the classes will remain online. The university,like many other schools, will require everyone on campus to wear face coverings indoors at all times, except when students are in their assigned rooms.
“To have to social distance and isolate everyone in their own room — it’s just not really appealing to me. It doesn’t really feel like the true college experience,” Zohar said.
Incoming Harvard freshman Yasmine Bazos was excited over the university’s announcement Monday that it will welcome 40% of undergrads to campus, including all freshmen. Students will be tested every three days.
“I want to be on campus so that I can start somewhat of a normal experience,” Bazos told CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver.
She said she doesn’t feel like she’s taking a health risk by going back. “Especially considering my age. If I was a lot older, I’d be concerned,” she said.
Some faculty, parents and health experts have expressed concerns about the virus spreading quickly among social college students. Last week, more than 100 students living in fraternity houses near the University of Washington reported testing positive for COVID-19.
The Chronicle of Higher Education looked at the campus reopening plans at more than 1,000 schools. Sixty percent plan to return to an in-person semester, 9% will continue all-remote learning and 24% will offer a mix, with the others still deciding.
Schools also have to consider that students may not want to pay full tuition to learn online.
“Universities are absolutely under financial pressure,” said former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “But that cannot be the driver of what happens. The health and safety of students, our faculty, our staff, administrators — that has to be first and foremost.”
Duncan said he understands student’s frustrations and hopes they will see the big picture.
“Let it be clear, this is one fall, this is one single fall, and we have to be willing to do the right thing to get through this to get to the other side. So our next fall and the next fall after that, and the next fall after that, will be much better for all of us,” he said.
In case of a campus outbreak, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say schools should shut down buildings to disinfect them and work with local health officials to trace contacts. If the level of community spread is substantial, they should consider extending the suspension of in-person classes.
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