How Colleges are Handling Room and Board Amid the Coronavirus

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As the coronavirus pandemic in America remains a serious issue through the summer, more questions pop up daily about how schooling in the fall will be handled. While there are different plans on how to safely and effectively educate students this fall, all schools are scrambling for the right answer.

One emerging question is, considering the cost and risk, should students be paying for room and board this semester? Some schools have enough remote classes to allow students to learn off-campus, but there are plenty of benefits of in-person, hands-on education.

Here are how some colleges around the country are weighing these options, and what students can do.

See Also: Graduating College During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Courses in the Fall

Harvard made waves in early July when the prestigious institution announced that all courses would be online for the 2020-21 school year. Harvard is one of a handful of schools – nearly 10 percent nationwide – with such a policy in place. Students can still live on campus, but costs remain the same for students who do so. There was notably no reduction in tuition either.

As for other top schools, Princeton slashed the number of students allowed on campus in half and cut tuition by 10 percent, while Georgetown is limiting campus to almost exclusively freshmen at the same cost to all students. NYU, home to many international students, is planning to lower campus density by offering students the opportunity to study at a location closer to home and mixing in-person and online classes for students who opt to live in New York.

Hundreds of other schools are formulating similar plans as the semester quickly approaches, opting to host only first-year students, expanding remote learning, or cutting costs.

Pros and Cons of Fall Plans

All that is to say that a number of options exist, many of which are less than ideal for students. As many schools keep upperclassmen remote, college towns will likely be hurt economically too. Many areas are already experiencing lower-than-usual demand for apartments near campuses, and uncertainty is the new normal.

In addition, while some colleges are allowing only freshmen on campus, freshman dorms typically have communal bathrooms and common spaces. A handful of colleges have promised to offer every student a private bedroom, but it’s nearly impossible to ensure social distancing across campus outside of rooms.

Of course, providing housing is one of the most critical roles of colleges for many students. While there is no perfect set-up, colleges are often taking significant revenue losses to help ensure that a portion of students has somewhere to live.

The Bottom Line

The debate over how best to send students back to school will continue to rage all summer. As of now, the only thing that’s certain is that the Fall 2020 semester will be unlike any other before it.

Colleges have also prepared for the fact that opening campus in September does not guarantee it stays open through December. Schools are planning in case of a mid-year cancellation, and some including Washington State and South Florida announced that students will not be refunded if the semester is canceled.

As with anything in the time of coronavirus, these plans are all subject to change. For now, students should stay up to date with their school’s updates.

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