As fall draws near, colleges and universities across the country are determining how they will offer higher education amid the pandemic. Some, such as Duke and the University of Illinois, have publicly committed to in-person instruction, while others, such as the California State University system and Harvard Law School, will rely on remote instruction.
Last week, Columbia University unveiled an academic calendar allowing for remote and in-person instruction and featuring modified fall, spring, and summer terms, and Yale University has since unveiled a “residential/remote” plan, which allows students to live on campus but requires most coursework to be conducted digitally.
On Thursday, University Trustee and N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy released an executive order detailing guidelines for conducting in-person classes and maintaining open campuses — mandating that no students be required to live on N.J. college campuses.
While the University isn’t expected to release an official decision on the fall semester until early July, any plan would have to abide by Murphy’s regulations — including mask requirements, COVID-19 training at orientation, and strict social distancing protocols.
The University isn’t alone. Across New Jersey, 25 other four-year colleges and universities, serving over 250,000 students, are searching for the best way to operate in the fall. Here’s what those with over 5,000 students have said. Hover over each institution to learn about its plans.
Fairleigh Dickinson University
New Jersey’s largest private university, Fairleigh Dickinson will be ending its fall semester before the Thanksgiving holiday and eliminating October break, similar to Montclair State’s announced calendar change (see below). The first three weeks of the semester will be conducted online, with in-person classes resuming no sooner than September 8.
The roughly 40 percent of students who intend to live on campus will likely be able to begin returning on August 17. The school is committed to ensuring proper protocols for testing, contact tracing, and isolation for its 12,112 students.
Kean University plans to conduct classes “on campus and in hybrid formats with the exception of those courses previously designated to run solely online.” Less than 15 percent of students live on campus, but “residential housing will be available” for interested parties. Evaluation of common spaces, plexiglass dividers to ensure distancing while waiting in lines, and enhanced mobile order and to-go dining are also part of the school’s fall plan to service it’s 16,000+ students.
New Jersey Institute of Technology
NJIT is “now preparing to welcome students back to campus in the fall” for its 11,400+ students, according to a letter from Provost and Senior Executive Vice President Fadi P. Deek. Per its 23-page “Pandemic Recovery Plan,” the school hopes “to reopen in the fall to ‘business as usual’” while planning for all possibilities and states that all classes “should be offered with a virtual option.”
NJIT will implement a 15 percent reduction in overall housing capacity, the removal of all triple rooms, and a sharp increase in single-occupancy rooms. Administrators are also exploring ways to facilitate a safer dining experience, considering off-hour discounts and promising spatial modification to ensure greater safety.
On June 15, Rowan University announced plans for its over 19,000 students to return to campus in the fall. Classes will include a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid sessions — as well as a new "HyFlex" (hybrid flexible) format allowing "virtually all face-to-face classes to be taken synchronously from a remote location."
Seton Hall will be welcoming students back to campus for the fall semester, beginning on August 24, with a hybrid instructional plan which offers both in-person and remote instruction. Students may choose to switch to remote instruction at any time. The school will forego fall break and finish classes before Thanksgiving, administering final exams remotely after the November holiday.
No dorm room will house more than two students and bathrooms will be cleaned twice a day, seven days a week. A private research university of 10,200 with roughly 5,000 students living on campus, Seton Hall is located 40 miles north of Princeton and, being suburban and campus-based with D1 sports, bears more similarities to the University than other schools which have released a plan so far.
Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Institute of Technology is “preparing for an in-person, reduced density university environment this fall” for its 7,283 students. The campus start will involve the combination of classroom-based teaching and online learning options, as well as “residential living and student activities” and “a return to most campus-based business operations.”
In preparation for students’ return, the school is planning a “soft opening” in a few weeks, with the aim of gradually increasing the number of employees on campus by the fall. Contact tracing, increased cleaning of common spaces, temporary physical barriers, and widespread use of personal protective equipment will all figure prominently at SIT’s in-person reduced-capacity campus environment.
Thomas Edison State University
An online institution primarily catering to adult students, Thomas Edison has not released any extensive updates regarding the pandemic. According to its website, the school “remain[s] 100% open and operational” but will be conducting its few in-person classes and appointments virtually until further notice in addition to postponing or cancelling all gatherings involving 25 people or more.
Awaiting a decision
While the University has started the phased resumption of on-campus research, it does not plan to announce its decision regarding residential undergraduate instruction for the fall until “early July.” In a statement to The Daily Princetonian on Friday, University Spokesperson Ben Chang said that “planning continues in real time as we look towards announcing our plans for the undergraduate teaching program this fall” and “a full range of scenarios” are being explored. Ninety-six percent of undergraduates live on campus, easily the highest percentage in New Jersey.
An email from the University on Thursday confirmed that on-campus advising for graduate students will resume in the fall and that many students will begin to return over the summer. At present, the University is encouraging all faculty and staff who are able to work from home to continue doing so.
Located just 10 miles from the University, TCNJ is home to 7,400 students — primarily undergraduates. President Kathryn A. Foster is expected to announce a verdict on fall operations by June 30 following a period of evaluation by the college’s five readiness task forces. According to their website, “TCNJ is planning for two possible scenarios—face-to-face and remote educational experiences … with the ability to move between them as conditions allow or demand.”
Monmouth University has not released a written update regarding the fall semester for its roughly 6,000 students. Interested parties may listen to President Patrick Leahy discuss the West Long Branch-based school in his podcast, Monmouth Weekly.
The second largest university in New Jersey, Montclair State has not committed to an instruction format for its 21,000 students. However, President Susan A. Cole released a letter on Wednesday stating that the school is planning for the fall under the assumption that it will be allowed to provide in-person and remote learning, campus housing, and some campus events, provided proper precautions are observed.
Seventy percent of students at Montclair State live off campus. Without committing to a formal decision for the fall, Cole moved up the start of the term by one week and announced that, regardless of the plan, there will be no on-campus instruction between Thanksgiving and the end of first semester on December 14. This schedule change is consistent with moves from other schools which have sought to minimize the spread of the virus through travel.
“NJCU is poised to implement its phased-in reopening of campus operations,” according to a June 15 letter from President Sue Henderson. Physical barriers in high traffic areas and reduced density in campus buildings will play a role in the school’s return, especially for the 9 percent of students who live in university housing.
Henderson and her team are also monitoring the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems as well as means of ensuring effective testing and contact tracing. While still awaiting specific guidelines, expected to be posted by June 22, Henderson wrote that she looks forward to seeing each student back on campus.
Ramapo will announce formal plans for the fall semester by July 15. Until then, the school has plans to begin bringing employees back to campus over the following weeks. Heightened sensitivity to ventilation and temperature control systems, common spaces, and face coverings all will be part of the liberal arts college’s plan for the latter half of 2020. President Peter P. Mercer has not indicted any strict plans for the fall at this time. Ramapo has a student body of nearly 6,000, 45 percent of whom live on campus.
A May 28 letter from President Gregory G. Dell’Omo did not commit to any specifics about the upcoming year at Rider, noting “the fall semester is going to look different than normal.” Rider is very close to the University, sitting six miles away in neighboring Lawrenceville. “Our greatest wish is to welcome students and the entire community back to campus in September,” Dell’Omo wrote.
The Fall 2020 Planning Task Force is currently exploring scenarios which involve different degrees of in-person instruction and remote instruction. Residentially, the university suspended its on-campus residency requirement for first-years and sophomores, yet 70 percent of Rider’s 4,827 students live in university housing.
The state’s flagship public university anticipates releasing a final decision on education for its 51,000 undergraduates “by the first week of July,” while professional and graduate instruction for nearly 20,000 additional pupils will resume with a blend of in-person and remote education.
Beyond education, the school is “moving aggressively to reopen all of our faculty research venues,” in the next two months, aspiring to approach 100 percent research capacity by the end of August. Approximately 43 percent of Rutgers students live in college-owned, -operated, or -affiliated housing, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Stockton’s University Restart Operations Committee plans to present a plan for the fall to President Harvey Kesselman in early July. At present, the school is operating summer session classes online and enforcing heavy social distancing and limited on-site staffing for those who remain on campus. Stockton serves a student body of nearly 10,000.
“A decision regarding plans for the Fall 2020 semester is expected to be determined by June 29,” according to William Paterson’s website. According to a letter on Thursday, President Richard J. Helldobler is in communication with the university’s cabinet regarding plans to decrease the quantity of employees or students on campus at any one time in addition to a flexible course delivery plan to fit the needs of their student population of over 10,000. Financial considerations also weigh on the school’s decision.
“I am mindful of the fact that economic suffering can produce ripples of negative consequences for individuals’ physical and mental well-being,” Helldobler wrote. “A completely online semester would produce disastrous enrollment challenges. Coupled with reduced funding from the State, it would make job loss a certainty.”
For more information on how COVID-19 has impacted New Jersey and the University, visit our pandemic tracker and view a timeline of our coronavirus coverage.