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This is a developing story last updated at 2:45 p.m on Aug. 18. Please check back here for updates.

With the fall semester on the horizon, the continued COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some Ivy League schools to alter their original fall plans.

In early August, Penn, Columbia University, and Princeton University backtracked on their initial plans for a hybrid fall semester and on-campus living, mimicking Harvard University's plan for a virtual fall semester and reduced student presence on campus.

Brown University is instituting a "phased approach" to in-person fall instruction with all undergraduate courses taught remotely until the week of Oct. 5, while Cornell University is the only Ivy League school attempting to bring all its students back to campus.

Each school has different decisions regarding which class years will come back to campus and where they will be housed during each school's modified fall calendar. 


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University of Pennsylvania 

Penn President Amy Gutmann announced in an email to undergraduate students on Aug. 11 that Penn is no longer inviting students back to campus and is encouraging all students to not return to Philadelphia. The vast majority of undergraduate fall classes will be held online with very few in-person offerings, such as clinical experiences in The School of Nursing.

Limited exceptions for on-campus housing will be available to international students and those undergoing "significant housing or personal hardships," Gutmann wrote.

Penn will not raise tuition by 3.9% for the fall semester as planned by the University Board of Trustees on Feb. 27, and the General Fee, which increased 4.2% from last year, will now be reduced by 10% for the fall.

Graduate schools are continuing to evaluate their own fall operations.

This change comes a couple of months after Penn announced a hybrid fall semester, which guaranteed housing for first-years, sophomores, and transfer students. Gutmann wrote that testing and quarantining all students arriving on campus would have been “untenable." 

The fall semester will begin on Sept. 1 and end on Dec. 22, with no Fall Break Oct.1-4.

Brown University

Brown announced a “phased approach” to in-person instruction for the fall semester on Aug. 11. All undergraduate courses will be remote from Sept. 9 until the week of Oct. 5.

Only a small number of students will be allowed back on campus before Sept. 7.

A decline in Rhode Island’s COVID cases and a low number of positive tests among the student body by Sept. 11 would allow in-person learning to resume for smaller undergraduate courses with no more than 20 students, Brown President Christina Paxson wrote in an email to Brown community members on Aug. 11.

Paxson wrote that this phased approach to the start of in-person instruction will not impact the tri-semester model announced last month.

Brown had previously announced that undergraduate students would arrive on campus under a hybrid in-person and online instruction model for two of three 14-week fall terms.  

Sophomores will attend either the fall and spring terms or the fall and summer terms, depending on whether conditions worsen during the fall. Juniors and seniors will attend the fall and spring terms, and first-years will attend the spring and summer terms. This arrangement, as well as travel limitations and expected enrollment reductions, expects 4,600 students to return to campus each term.

Brown’s 2020-21 academic year will operate under a three-term system that will be compressed into 14 weeks instead of the usual 15. 

Long breaks, like fall and spring break, will be removed and instead replaced with two or three long weekends in each term. Reading period and final exams will be offered remotely for all terms, and students who leave campus for Thanksgiving break will not be able to return. 

Courses with more than 20 students will be offered remotely to allow flexibility for students and faculty who cannot or choose not to return to campus. Online courses will also allow a quick change to a completely online term if needed.

Some students may choose to complete one or both of their terms remotely, and during “off” terms where students will not be enrolled at Brown, they will be able to find an internship or research program, as well as any other academic or professional development opportunities.

Graduate students will likely enroll in the fall and spring terms, but if they are unable to return to campus in the fall, they will be given the option to defer for one term for one year or begin the program online and return to campus part way through the term. Graduate instruction in all other cases will be conducted the same as undergraduate instruction.

Columbia University

Three days after Brown and Penn announced their updated fall plans, Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger wrote to Columbia community members on Aug. 14 that the University will be limiting on-campus housing to Columbia College and Engineering undergraduates who must be on campus due to personal or academic circumstances.

All undergraduate courses will be virtual this fall, while approximately 40% of graduate courses will be hybrid or in-person.

Columbia had planned to deliver a mixture of online and in-person instruction through a three-term cycle for the 2020-21 academic year, inviting first-year and second-year students to campus in the fall and third and fourth-year students in the spring.

New York's two-week quarantine mandate and various restrictions on social gatherings on campus would be “limiting the quality of life for students residing on campus," Bollinger wrote.

The fall term will begin on schedule on Sept. 8, but the spring and summer terms will begin earlier than planned on Jan. 11 and May 3, respectively. Commencement will occur at the end of the spring term, during the last week of April.

New York City, home to Columbia’s campus, was an early epicenter of coronavirus in the United States with more than 402,000 COVID-19 cases and 31,000 deaths as of July 7, but New York state and New York City have both seen declines in cases in recent weeks as other state’s infection rates continue to climb.

Cornell University

Cornell will reopen for the fall with a hybrid model of instruction with virtual and in-person classes, as announced by University President Martha E. Pollack on June 30. 

Fall semester classes will now begin on September 2, despite being originally planned for August 27. The last day of on-campus instruction will be Nov. 24, after which remaining instruction and final exams will be conducted virtually until the semester ends on Dec. 21. 

Classes will either be online or in-person, remote learning options will be accessible for students unable to return to campus. Students will be informed of the format of classes prior to registration in early July, and can expect classroom capacity to be reduced with requirements to sit in assigned seats. For those unable to return in the fall, however, remote learning options will be available.

“Residential instruction, when coupled with a robust virus screening program of the form we intend to implement, is a better option for protecting the public health of our community than a purely online semester,” Pollack told The Cornell Daily Sun.

Student organizations will not be able to book on-campus space until late September or October.

On-campus fall housing will be limited to singles and doubles with assigned bathrooms. Dining halls will provide to-go service and will have distanced tables. 

Cornell is currently planning for a fully residential spring semester to begin after an extended winter break on Feb. 9. 

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon and Provost Joseph Helble wrote in a University-wide email sent June 29 that half of its undergraduate population will return to campus each term through summer 2021. 

The fall term will begin as planned on September 14, and final exams will be held online following the Thanksgiving break in order for students to avoid peak travel season. 

Each Dartmouth student will have the opportunity to spend two terms enrolled on campus, and may enroll via distance learning from home for one or both of the remaining two terms. 

The incoming class of 2024 will receive priority for on-campus residence for both the fall and spring terms, with an off-campus winter term. The class of 2023 will receive priority to be on campus for the summer term, to continue Dartmouth’s tradition of sophomore summer. The class of 2022 will receive priority for the fall term while the class of 2021 will receive priority for the spring term. 

Despite receiving priority to be on campus for certain terms, no student is required to be on campus for any term. 

Students in on-campus housing will live in singles to maintain social distancing and everyone arriving on campus will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Those living on campus will be required to participate in daily health screening and virus testing once arriving on campus and regularly afterward. 

The majority of undergraduate classes will be conducted virtually, but some classes will be held in person. Social distancing guidelines limit the amount of classroom space available. 

There will be limitations on gatherings, social activities, and lectures along with new protocols for using campus spaces. There will be restricted traveling, contact tracing, and a requirement to wear face coverings in public. There will also be increased cleaning procedures, staggered scheduling, refigured workspaces, and building access. The College library will be open to the Dartmouth community. 

Harvard University

Harvard will conduct all its courses, regardless of where students are living, entirely online for the 2020-21 academic year. Up to 40% of the undergraduate population will arrive to campus in the fall, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay, and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana announced on July 6. 

The College will open dorms to first-years this fall, and will require sophomores, juniors, and seniors to seek approval to return to campus. Assuming a 40% density in the spring semester as well, Harvard then plans to bring back seniors to campus and have first-years return home for remote learning in the spring. 

Students who “must be on campus to progress academically” will be able to return to campus — without exceeding the 40% density threshold. Aside from first-year students, remaining spots will be filled with students who lack a sufficient computer, fast internet, a quiet place to work, and unhindered time to commit to coursework. Students who have challenging home and family circumstances or shelter and food insecurities, or require accessible learning resources or assistive technology on campus will also be able to return, The Harvard Crimson reported

Seniors whose work cannot be done virtually or requires non-digitized resources from libraries, archives, or museums for their theses may also be able to return to campus, the Crimson reported.

The deadline for freshmen to defer enrollment has been pushed to July 24, and a team of advisors has been created to assist upperclassmen who may be considering a leave of absence. 

Harvard will not reduce tuition fee — which increased from the 2019-20 academic year. Students living off-campus will not pay for room and board, and for students that receive financial aid, their aid award will be calculated with a “COVID-19 Remote Room and Board” allowance of $5,000 per semester. They will also have no term-time work expectation for the fall. 

On May 13, Harvard Medical School announced it will hold classes online for all incoming students.

On June 3, Harvard announced that six of its 12 degree-granting schools will be online in the fall. The Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Graduate School of Divinity, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Law School, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health will be online for the fall semester, while the Harvard Graduate School of Education announced it will be online for the entire 2020-21 academic year. 

Princeton University

Princeton announced a fully virtual semester for all undergraduate students on Aug. 7, a reversal from its initial plan to bring back first years and juniors for the fall semester and sophomores and seniors in the spring.

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber wrote that new restrictions imposed by New Jersey and health risks would “diminish the educational value of the on‑campus experience.”

The University’s fall semester will begin two days earlier than expected on Aug. 31, and its fall break will be limited to a long weekend instead of the usual week.

A small number of seniors, designated by their department, will be allowed to return to campus in the fall to conduct thesis research. Students who face housing insecurity, new transfer students, and ROTC students will also be accommodated for fall on-campus residence.

If Princeton is able to welcome undergraduate students back to campus in spring 2021, Eisgruber wrote that Princeton will prioritize seniors for on-campus living.

Princeton will also reduce tuition by 10% for all students and the “activities and athletic fees” will not be charged for the 2020-21 academic year. 

Yale University

Yale will open its campus only to first-years, juniors, and seniors for the fall semester, as announced by Yale President Peter Salovey and Provost Scott Strobel on July 1. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors will be allowed back on campus in the spring in order to maintain an on-campus population of 60% of normal density throughout the year.  

Yale's classes will begin Aug. 31, two days earlier than scheduled, and will end on Dec. 4. Fall break is canceled, and following Thanksgiving, all activities will switch to an online format, including reading period and final examinations. Nearly all classes will be taught virtually and only the courses that require in-person components, such as studio and lab-based classes, will take place in person.

Staggered move-in dates will be provided in early August with exact details depending on the number of students actually planning to return to school. 

The University will arrange housing accommodations for sophomores in the fall and for first-years in the spring, specifically for those who are experiencing academic or technological challenges at home. First-year international students who arrive in the fall, emancipated students, and students experiencing homelessness will also be allowed to live on campus throughout the entire academic year, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun told Yale Daily News.

Dining halls will provide to-go or pre-ordered meals, and any social spaces like libraries and common rooms will operate at a quarter of their usual capacity.

Tuition will not be reduced, but room and board will be reduced to reflect the shorter semester. Instead of reducing tuition for sophomores and first years that will remain off-campus for alternate semesters, students will be able to take two free credits for next year’s summer session.

Due to the adapted semester schedule, Yale’s pre-orientation programs will be offered online before its fall semester begins.

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