Harvard plans to bring back up to 40% of students—here's how things will change on campus

Harvard Square
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The coronavirus pandemic has impacted colleges across the country, forcing schools to close their campuses, move classes online and adjust their admissions policies

In March, Harvard University gave students five days to leave campus due to coronavirus fears. "We were all in shock at the short notice," Anil Bradley, a rising Harvard junior, said at the time. 

On Monday, Harvard unveiled its plan for the upcoming semester, which begins on September 2nd. The plan includes bringing up to 40% of students back to its Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus, holding all classes online, consistently testing on-campus students for the virus and offering free summer courses to fully remote students.

As one of the most prestigious universities in the country, many other schools will likely look to Harvard's plan for guidance. 

Here's a look at how things will change on Harvard's campus this fall, according to the school's current plan.

Harvard University's Dunster House in Cambridge, MA
Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Residential life

"After careful deliberation, and informed by extensive input from our community, we write today to announce our plans to bring up to 40% of our undergraduates to campus, including all first-year students, for the fall semester," reads a statement from Harvard president Larry Bacow and Harvard deans Claudine Gay and Rakesh Khurana. 

The school says it will announce its plans for the spring semester in December, but indicates that if the university remains at 40% capacity, senior students will be allowed to return to campus while first years will be sent home.

"We also will invite back to campus those students who may not be able to learn successfully in their current home learning environment," the statement says.

The decision to have no more than 40% of Harvard's 6,699 undergraduate students on campus will allow the school to reduce density in residential areas and to isolate and quarantine up to 250 individuals at a time, the school says. 

Students who live on campus will be required to follow public health practices, such as wearing face masks and frequent handwashing, as well as routine testing. Students living on campus will be tested for Covid-19 when they arrive to campus and will continually be tested "every three days while in residence," the plan states. 

All on-campus students will live in single bedrooms and be spread out across campus. 

Online classes

Even though some students will live on Harvard's campus this fall, all courses will be taught online. 

Students who are unable to learn remotely will be able to apply for special permission to return to campus. "We understand that some students may not be able to learn successfully in their current home learning environment," reads the plan.

Harvard enacted an emergency grading system in which students were either awarded a "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" for their performance during the 2020 fall semester, but the school will return to traditional letter grading in the fall. 

While many students have raised concerns that because they are not receiving a traditional college experience due to the pandemic, costs should be reduced, Harvard clarified that tuition will not be reduced for the upcoming school year. 

During the 2019-2020 school year tuition, fees, room and board at Harvard totaled $69,607. During the 2020-2021 school year, these costs will amount to $72,356.

Students not living on campus will not pay for housing. Tuition for the 2020-2021 school year is set at $49,653.

Off-campus students who qualify for financial aid will receive a "Covid-19 Remote Room and Board" allowance of $5,000 per semester.

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Summer school

The school offered its sympathy to sophomore and junior students who will likely not return to campus at all this year. In response, all students who spend the 2020-2021 academic year off campus will be able to attend Harvard's 2021 summer school program in Cambridge tuition-free.

"In recognition of the fact that many of our students will not have a residential campus experience this year, all enrolled undergraduate students who will be learning remotely from home for the full academic year 2020-21 will be eligible to come to campus to take two courses at the Harvard Summer School in the summer of 2021."

Students who typically receive financial aid will also have their room and board subsidized during the summer program. 

The plan ends with a simple message to students: "Stay safe and healthy."

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