Answer: Nobody is sure.
With classes set to begin again next month, students and faculty members face a great deal of uncertainty. So writes the Martin Center’s Megan Zogby in today’s article.
Certainty for the fall is not high, however. The New York Times argued that most people haven’t “met minimal criteria” for state lockdowns to end. If colleges aren’t careful, they could set up outbreaks on campus instead of providing a safe zone. If outbreaks happen, the end result may be another hasty switch to online classes, catching universities flat on their feet again.
One thing that is certain is that schools will go all-out to stop any outbreaks. Masks will be mandatory almost everywhere and any actual classes will probably have the professor separated by a plexiglass screen.
North Carolina State is probably typical of many schools — still trying to figure out how to proceed in this new environment. Zogby writes:
NC State sent out an email in early July to ‘clarify’ things for the upcoming semester, but its vagueness wasn’t very helpful. The email stated that the class schedule available currently ‘may not be final’ and the university ‘is still working to evaluate individual class needs and make decisions daily.’ While the vague responses from universities across the country are understandable, they don’t help students who live far from campus and need to make housing arrangements. Many students have assumed that classes will be online and the university is just pushing off announcing it, so they made plans to live at home to save money. Regardless of in-person or online classes, students will pay the same tuition.
Will they be willing to pay? And since many American kids go to college much more for fun than for learning, how many will turn thumbs-down on the whole thing now?