CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University is announcing that the fall 2020 semester won’t be canceled.
Though, whether students will be returning to campus or continue learning virtually still remains unknown.
Provost Alan Garber said Harvard will continue to prepare for the possibility of a notably different, more engaging remote learning scenario if necessary.
In a community message, Garber explained what would be necessary to bring students and faculty back to campus in the fall.
“When and how we can safely return to these spaces will depend on the status of the pandemic and the strategies that can be deployed to mitigate its effects. We will need to consider whether the epidemiological data and public health models indicate that most disease activity is behind us and that further waves of outbreak are unlikely,” the letter reads. “If our community has not developed sufficient levels of immunity through recovery from the disease or vaccination, and if safe and effective antiviral therapy is not available, we will likely need adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, reliable and convenient viral testing, robust contact tracing procedures, and facilities for quarantine and isolation.”
Garber said Harvard briefly considered delaying the start of the academic year all together until 2021 but has taken that option off the table.
Colleges and universities across the United States are under increasing pressure to explain what fall semester might look like as deposit deadlines approach.
“The main fear and panic for many families… they’re needing to make a decision by May 1st, which is the traditional deposit deadline, without all the facts,” said Casey Near, college counselor with Collegewise.
College counselor Casey Near told Boston 25 News that many students and parents are now questioning the cost of college if it’s delivered remotely.
“I think families are more acutely asking, is the cost worth it?,” said Near. “It’s heightened the importance and hunger for an in person connection. They’re saying that’s what I planned on, and I want that and I’m willing to potentially delay my plans so I can have that.”
Near said the pandemic doesn’t necessarily translate into a blanket opportunity to defer.
“A lot of people are considering that. I think the reality is whether colleges will allow them to consider that,” added Near. “Some colleges are going to have to do it on a case by case basis because they still need students to come in the fall, even if it’s remote.”
Harvard is not saying if students will be charged the same tuition if classes continue online in the fall.
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