What Colleges Are Going Back Online Due to Delta?

What Colleges Are Going Back Online Due to Delta?
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By Anne Dennon

Published on September 7, 2021

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A few colleges that had planned on returning to in-person learning this fall will revert to remote learning, at least for the initial weeks. Several other colleges are leaving it up to instructors whether to teach their classes in-person or online. Despite vaccine, masking, quarantining, and, in some cases, tracking requirements, college leaders say local surges in infection rates are forcing them to delay reopening campus.

In Texas, Rice University will start online for two weeks. According to Provost Reginald DesRoches, "Much remains to be learned about the Delta variant." Rice's president David W. Leebron says the campus is "in a hot spot right now." Bridget Gorman, the dean of undergraduates, wrote in a letter to students, "I'll be blunt: The level of breakthrough cases (positive testing among vaccinated persons) is much higher than anticipated."

While Texas banned vaccine and mask mandates, Rice University, a private institution, told students they are expected to have received a COVID-19 vaccine — language that stops short of violating state law. The school also requires masks indoors, and advises faculty members to wear masks while teaching.

The University of Texas at San Antonio will also move most classes online for the first three weeks. Other colleges in Texas continue to plan for in-person education. Some say masks are optional.

List of Colleges Delaying In-Person Learning

  • Rice University
  • University of Texas at San Antonio
  • University of Dallas
  • La Salle University
  • California State University, Stanislaus
  • Alabama A&M University
  • Eastern Gateway Community College

At California State University, Stanislaus, classes began as scheduled on Aug. 23, but classes planned to be taught in person have been moved online until Oct. 1. Alabama A&M University moved courses online for the first two weeks.

More colleges are considering whether and when to revert online learning. Northern Illinois University reached an agreement with faculty that if COVID-19 rates rose above 8%, all classes will go remote. Additionally, hundreds of faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have signed a petition, requesting that classes be moved online for the first 4-6 weeks of the school year.

The quality of remote learning in college is likely to have improved after a year of practical experience. Still, academic outcomes plummeted for many students who were forced to switch to online learning, often along stark racial and economic lines. As schools experiment with hybrid models, student engagement and retention is on the line.


Feature Image: Alistair Berg / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Colleges across the U.S. are increasingly requiring COVID-19 vaccination for on-campus learning. Check out the full list of colleges that require the vaccine. More and more colleges plan to reopen this fall, but students must maintain realistic expectations as they prepare to return to campus. Any college welcoming only fully vaccinated individuals for the fall term has been given the green light to return to full-capacity, in-person learning.