Latest News on Coronavirus and Higher Education


IHE Staff May 27, 2020

Purdue Board Approves Fall Reopening Plans

May 26, 5:46 p.m. Purdue University’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved the adoption of a fall academic calendar featuring in-person instruction from Aug. 24 to Nov. 24, without customary university holidays or fall breaks and with the remainder of the semester to be completed remotely. At the same time, the board approved plans for offering remote coursework options to students who cannot or will not come to the Indiana campus this fall.

Purdue’s president, Mitch Daniels, has been especially visible in articulating a case for universities to reopen, despite concerns voiced by some Purdue faculty members about the safety of in-person teaching.

Purdue’s board on Tuesday approved a plans “to de-densify learning spaces on campuses,” by reducing classroom occupancy by approximately 50 percent and limiting occupancy for large classrooms to no more than 150 students. “The space between instructor and student will be a minimum of 10 feet, and mobile plexiglass barriers will be available for additional protection,” the university said in a news release.

Purdue’s board similarly approved plans to “de-densify” on-campus living spaces, “ensuring that each residential space meets the following requirements: square footage per person will meet or exceed 113 square feet, allowing for a radius of six feet per person, or while sleeping, a separation of at least 10 feet head-to-head.”

Other plans approved by the board include plans to implement “more frequent and intensive practices for disinfecting campus facilities” and “adopt a definitional framework for identifying those most vulnerable in the campus community and, thus, at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and to implement a process for making individual accommodations for those for whom it is medically appropriate.”

Finally, the board approved a new university regulation requiring the wearing of face masks while indoors and in any close-quarters setting. It also ratified the Protect Purdue Pledge – a series of individual commitments for monitoring for COVID-19 and maintaining social distancing – and directed enforcement of the pledge as a university regulation.

— Elizabeth Redden

Appalachian State to Cut Three Athletics Teams

May 26, 3:50 p.m. Appalachian State University will eliminate its men’s soccer, tennis and indoor track and field programs, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. The move will leave Appalachian State with 17 intercollegiate athletics teams, one more than the minimum required to participate in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Another public university located in North Carolina, East Carolina University, last week announced it was cutting athletics teams amid the pandemic and financial crises. ECU eliminated men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, and women’s tennis.

— Paul Fain

FAFSA Renewals Down, Especially for Lower-Income Students

May 26, 3 p.m. The number of students filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid is still down from this time last year.

Completions of the application started to decline in mid-March, when parts of the country began to shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National College Attainment Network, which is tracking FAFSA applications.

Application renewals have improved since April but are still lagging behind counts from last year. Through May 15, there have been nearly 4 percent fewer FAFSA renewals than through the same time last year.

Students from low-income backgrounds are not filing or renewing in disproportionate amounts compared to higher-income students.

Applications from students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants whose families have incomes of $25,000 or less are also down by more than 7 percent compared to last year. While renewals increased for students from households making more than $25,000, applications from those making less were still down.

Over all, there were nearly 6 percent fewer renewals from all Pell-eligible students from March 15 to May 15 this year compared to last.

Renewals from students whose households earn $50,000 or more are up slightly — by about 4,100 renewals — compared to last year.

— Madeline St. Amour

University of Michigan’s President on Reopening, Football

May 26, 9:07 a.m. In an interview The Wall Street Journal published over the weekend, University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel said whatever decision the university makes about in-person instruction in the fall will apply through the rest of the academic year.

“What’s going to be different in January?” Schlissel told the newspaper.

The winter semester coincides with the flu season, said Schlissel. And because about half of Michigan’s students are from out of state, both semesters likely will feature an influx of students traveling from COVID-19 hot spots.

Schlissel also told the Journal that the university won’t have a football season this fall unless all students are able to be back on campus for classes.

“If there is no on-campus instruction then there won’t be intercollegiate athletics, at least for Michigan,” Schlissel said. “[I have] some degree of doubt as to whether there will be college athletics [anywhere], at least in the fall.”

An immunologist by training, Schlissel told Inside Higher Ed back in early March that the university was updating its strategy on the COVID-19 pandemic on a daily basis.

“There’s a huge amount of uncertainty and a lot of concern,” he said. “We’re looking at it every single day and asking ourselves, ‘What is the right thing to do?’”

— Paul Fain

College Presidents Say Fall Opening Likely

May 25, 2020, 1:26 p.m. More than half of college presidents (53 percent) said it was “very likely” their institutions would resume in-person courses this fall, and another 31 percent said it was “somewhat likely,” according to a survey of 310 presidents conducted by the American Council on Education. Presidents at public two-year colleges were less likely (38 percent) than presidents of four-year public (53 percent) and four-year private (58 percent) colleges to say it was “very likely” their colleges would resume in-person courses this fall.

Of the 230 presidents in the survey whose institutions offer on-campus housing, 51 percent said it was “very likely” their campuses would resume in-person housing operations at some point in the fall semester, and 40 percent said it was “somewhat likely.”

The survey asked presidents about whether they plan to take certain specific actions in resuming in-person operations. Their answers can be seen in the two charts below. 

College presidents also are broadly forecasting revenue and enrollment declines. Among college presidents projecting enrollment declines for this fall, 45 percent expect a decline of 10 percent or less compared to fall 2019, 50 percent expect an 11 to 20 percent decline and 6 percent expect a 21 to 30 percent decline.


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