Colleges & Universities

Connecticut governor says he wants Yale and state's other colleges 'to open in the fall'

Key Points
  • Gov. Ned Lamont told CNBC on Tuesday that he wants colleges in Connecticut "to open in the fall," if it's safe to do so.
  • "We have the best and the brightest coming to Connecticut to get educated, and it'd be a shame that they didn't come ... because it wasn't safe," Lamont, a Democrat, said on "Squawk on the Street."
  • Lamont said schools may take different approaches depending on their size and the nature of their student body.
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Gov. of Conn., home to Yale and other universities, wants them 'to open in the fall'

Gov. Ned Lamont told CNBC on Tuesday that he wants colleges and universities in Connecticut "to open in the fall," provided it is safe to do so.

"It's a big part of our state," Lamont, a Democrat, said on "Squawk on the Street." "We have the best and the brightest coming to Connecticut to get educated, and it'd be a shame that they didn't come ... because it wasn't safe," he added. 

The state is home to Yale University, the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University, among others. 

Lamont's comments come as institutions of higher education across the U.S. grapple with how to hold classes in the fall during to the coronavirus pandemic.

Most colleges and universities took steps this spring to cancel in-person instruction for the current academic period, shifting classes online as the threat from the Covid-19 outbreak intensified. But a lot of the focus now is on how —or if — to safely resume in-person classes in the coming months. 

The president of Yale, Peter Salovey, told the university community in an email last week that it intended to announce plans for the fall semester by early July. "I understand that we all need time to make plans," he wrote in the email, according to the Yale Daily News. "If we can do so sooner, we will."

Lamont said the strategies of institutions may vary depending on their size and the nature of their student body.

"Obviously, if you're more of a commuter campus, less risk. If you have big residence halls, a little more of a risk," said Lamont, who also expressed hope that progress in Covid-19 testing and treatments may mean "we'll be on the backside of this come this fall." 

'Essential for American society' 

Colleges and universities "have to try" to safely reopen their campuses in the fall, said Christina Paxson, president of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. 

"I think it's essential for American society and the economy to get us back on track,"  Paxson said Tuesday on CNBC's "Squawk Box." 

Paxson said she has heard from students who are eager to return to campus and resume in-person classes. She added she believes more will feel that way "if we're confident that we can maintain the adequate levels of safety." 

Courses with large lectures will be likely done in "flipped mode," Paxon said, with students watching the video lectures and then having smaller, discussion-based classes. 

"In some ways, that's a great educational experience anyway," she said, while also emphasizing the importance of protecting faculty and staff who are at a higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19. 

Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, told CNBC on Monday that smaller class sizes and a requirement to wear face masks would likely be in place, if students were to return to campus in the fall.

Restrictions on large events and "changes to our physical facilities, for instance, will be necessary for us to conclude that we are safe," said Daniels, a former two-term Republican governor of Indiana, where Purdue is located. 

"We won't move forward unless we believe that, but to get to that point, we have to get going now."

Testing 

Testing for Covid-19 is an essential component of any plan for colleges to safely operate in the fall, both Daniels and Paxson said. 

Paxson, who also is a professor of economics and public policy, said ensuring institutions of higher education have access to "relatively inexpensive, rapid testing" should be a national priority. 

Brown is exploring plans to make sure it has testing capacity, Paxson said. But "I think we know we have to wait until the technology and the sciences moves a little bit farther before we can make a final plan." 

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Brown University president outlines plan to reopen college campuses