On Monday, California State University, Fullerton, announced it was planning to begin the fall 2020 semester online, making it one of the first colleges to disclose contingency plans for prolonged coronavirus disruptions.
"Our plan is to enter [the fall] virtually," said Pamella Oliver, the schools provost, at a virtual town hall. "Of course that could change depending on the situation, depending on what happens with COVID-19. But at this point that's what we're thinking."
The public institution in Southern California also said it hopes to resume in-person learning when it's safe to do so.
Oliver asked faculty to start planning for fall virtual classes now, citing the pain felt this spring when the university was forced to transition to online classes. "Having to jump quickly, without having in-depth plans," she said, "added to the difficulty."
Colleges and universities moved spring classes online, and many also closed campuses in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Schools are now grappling with how long the disruptions will last, and what the fall semester will look like — but many have been hesitant to announce their fall plans publicly.
College enrollment was already on a downward trend before the pandemic, making it a competitive field for college recruiters — every student they sign up counts. The big question is: Will students still enroll if college is all online? And will colleges that were already in dire financial straits survive the outbreak?