But the system’s guidance, in a four-page statement, clearly signaled that higher education leaders anticipate a mix of teaching and learning methods as they navigate the challenge of operating in the shadow of a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans. Leaders are mindful not only of student safety but also of the risk to faculty and staff who are older and more vulnerable to developing covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Schools “will welcome students back to campus this fall in a hybrid fashion, combining at least some on-campus, in-person instruction with remote learning,” the system said. Schools expect to announce plans over the next two weeks. They want to reassure students and families about the continuity of education in part to maintain enrollment. Some families are skeptical about paying full tuition for remote-only learning.
Most students at residential universities will begin in mid-to-late August, the system said. Some schools will halt in-person instruction by Thanksgiving, but others may continue face-to-face classes for the entire term.
Still to be determined are the mix of “residential students” and “remote students” at each school, as well as plans for athletics.
The system serves about 172,000 students, from Frostburg State University in the west to the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Morgan State University in Baltimore and St. Mary’s College of Maryland, both public, are not part of the system. Morgan State has said it plans to reopen campus in the fall.
Colleges and universities nationwide were forced to switch to remote instruction in March as the virus crisis intensified. Students stuck at home since then are growing anxious to know whether they will be allowed to return to campus. Some universities are cautioning that they may not have answers until July.
But a growing number are saying they expect to start with students on campus in August, wrap up in-person teaching by Thanksgiving, and finish up with final exams remotely. With that strategy, educators hope to minimize student travel during the semester to lower the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus.
The University of Virginia disclosed Thursday that it plans to call students back to its campus in Charlottesville in August, but halt in-person teaching by Thanksgiving. U-Va.'s final plans will be issued in mid-June.