Back in Person or Back Online? What Colleges are Deciding for This Semester

With the recent surge of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, many colleges are trying to figure out whether students should return on campus or start the semester online. Colleges across the country are weighing their options between a delayed semester start, pivoting to online classes, or resuming on campus learning with Covid-19 mitigation strategies.

Booster Mandates

According to Forbes, many colleges are now requiring booster shots along with initial vaccination mandates for on-campus students. Many of the nation’s top-ranked universities have issued booster mandates, including all the campuses at the University of California. California State University now requires students to have both vaccine shots and a booster.

According to the College Crisis Initiative, or C2i data, more than 28 percent of the colleges in its sample are requiring booster shots for students, and nearly 26 percent are requiring boosters for faculty and staff.

Waiting out the Surge

Other universities are deciding to either delay the semester, such as Yale, or start off the first few weeks online, in the hopes of avoiding a surge of Omicron cases. Harvard announced that it would conduct most of its classes and work remotely for the first three weeks of January, along with Stanford University, Columbia University, Duke University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and more.

Forging Ahead (Carefully?)

Although many colleges are choosing to start the semester online, they are actually in the minority. Rylie Martin, assistant director of C2i, says, “There are a good number of institutions bringing students back on schedule. Many are maintaining COVID mitigation strategies from the fall semester, which means having indoor masking mandates, requiring either re-entry testing once students get back to campus or testing prior to coming back.” (InsideHigherEd)

For example, Otterbein University in Ohio is trusting vaccine mandates and ongoing mitigation tactics to allow students back on campus instead of starting the semester online. University of Michigan already began in-person classes at the beginning of January, despite pushback from over a thousand faculty members.

What has your college decided? Share in the comments below.


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