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Only 40% of Harvard undergrads will return to campus this fall

Colleges unveil plans to reopen campuses
Colleges unveil plans to reopen campuses 04:28

Harvard University announced on Monday that it will only invite up to 40% of its undergraduate population back to its campus for the fall semester, one of academia's strictest reopening plans as COVID-19 cases surge across the South and West.

When the Ivy League institution's semester begins in September, only first-years and students who are unable to complete online coursework at home will be allowed on the university's Cambridge, Massachusetts-based campus, according to a press release published Monday morning. At the end of the fall semester, freshmen will go home and the senior class will return to campus. Regardless of whether students live on campus at Harvard or at home, all coursework will be conducted remotely and tuition will remain the same at $49,653.

"Harvard was built for connection, not isolation," wrote university president Larry Bacow and two deans in a message to the Harvard community. "Without a vaccine or effective clinical treatments for the virus, we know that no choice that reopens the campus is without risk."

A spokesperson for Harvard did not immediately return an email requesting comment.

As colleges and universities nationwide scramble to figure out fall semester plans amid the coronavirus pandemic, Harvard's is among the most restrictive. More than 6 in 10 schools are planning for in-person classes this fall, and another 23% are planning a hybrid of in-person and online classes. Just 9% are currently planning the online-only approach, according to an analysis conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But as COVID-19 cases surge, universities have begun announcing more restrictive reopening plans. On Monday, Princeton University reported that most coursework would be conducted online and only about half of the undergraduates would be invited back to its New Jersey campus. Rutgers, also in New Jersey, announced on Monday that on-campus housing would be "extremely limited" and a majority of courses would be delivered online. Yale plans to allow about three-quarters of its undergraduates back on campus for a mix of in-person and online classes, with the rest doing remote learning.

"The recent upturn in COVID-19 cases in certain states illustrates the difficulty of making predictions, even well-informed ones, about the evolution of this virus," the Harvard administrators said in their statement. "Given this uncertainty, we determined that our fall plan must enable us to bring back as many students as possible while providing sufficient margin to accommodate an escalation of the prevalence of COVID-19 in our area."

As the U.S. has begun to ease restrictions, confirmed coronavirus cases have surged in 40 states. In hotspots like Texas and California, officials have reversed some reopening measures, closing bars, limiting indoor dining and mandating mask usage. In an interview Sunday on "Face the Nation," former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned that the United States is "right back where we were" when the country experienced its first peak in coronavirus infections earlier this year.

"We're right back where we were at the peak of the epidemic during the New York outbreak," Gottlieb said on Sunday. "The difference now is that we really had one epicenter of spread when New York was going through its hardship. Now we really have four major epicenters of spread: Los Angeles, cities in Texas, cities in Florida and Arizona. And Florida looks to be in the worst shape, and Georgia is heating up as well, and that's concerning."

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