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US Colleges Aim for Return to Face-to-Face Classes This Fall

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After, in some cases, a year of remote instruction, a growing number of colleges throughout the country are now assuring their students that classes will return to in-person instruction this fall semester.

However, American Council on Education Vice President Terry Hartle pointed out that while in-person classes may be held in September, returning to normal will still take many years.

“There are no guarantees, but we are more hopeful than we have been for a long, long time that colleges and universities will look like they usually do,” he stated.

“It will take several years for institutions to return to normal operations, and it will really be four or five years before we can sort out what the real impact has been,” he added.

Faculty Increasingly Positive, Students Feel ‘Burned Out’

A survey released earlier this week showed that 51 percent of faculty at higher education institutions are more positive about online classes now than they were before the pandemic.

Of students, however, 87 percent said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their courses before the transition to online learning. Afterward, that number had dropped to 59 percent, EducationData.org data showed.

Furthermore, pandemic-induced stress caused 58 percent of students to say they were “moderately,” “very,” or “extremely” worried about their mental health in a September survey by Chegg.org.

Ashland University, one of the schools planning for almost all classes to be face-to-face this fall, recognizes the toll the pandemic has taken on students. Since institutions began resorting to online classes last year, Ashland President Carlos Campo stressed that many students are already feeling “burned out.”

He said they are now asking themselves whether they’re willing to do another year of remote learning. “We owe it to students to let them know what’s coming,” he told AP.

Colleges Lay Out Plans for Fall Semester

How quickly college campuses will fill up again will also depend on the result of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination effort and local health rules.

Harvard University had already announced that in-person classes are expected to recommence during the fall semester. However, it stressed that community health and well-being will be the highest priority.

Claudine Gay, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, said that its learners can also anticipate returning to their dorms as face-to-face classes begin.

The University of Connecticut is also planning to start in-person classes in the fall and let its students occupy dorms at 90 percent capacity.

“Our goal is to support as much of an in-person classroom experience as possible for the fall, but we are ready to increase the number of online and hybrid offerings as needed to ensure community health and our compliance with state guidance,” university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz told student-run newspaper The Daily Campus earlier this month.

Other institutions planning to resume face-to-face classes in the fall include the University of Wisconsin, University of Tennessee, Arizona State University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of California.

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