In August and September of this year, college students across Pennsylvania made the decision to either go back to on-campus learning, or keep learning remotely. The choice was no doubt a difficult one, since coronavirus cases across the state have started to rise steadily once again. Southeastern Pennsylvania was one of the hardest hit places in PA, and college students have already had a tumultuous start to their semester.
Kutztown University invited students back to campus this year for dorm living and a mix of virtual and hybrid classes, with very few classes being completely in-person. They also decided to allow athletic and other recreational activities to be in-person. As of September 23, the school had 303 total cases between students and faculty. The administration has no plans to change class structure.
“I definitely think Kutztown could do much more,” Kylie Krantz, a freshman at Kutztown University, said, “…I do think my health would have been compromised even though I was following regulations.” Krantz noted that Kutztown didn’t seem to be stopping parties on campus, and those parties were contributing to the swell of cases. Kylie had moved onto campus the first week, but ultimately made the decision to return home.
Some colleges have been much more strict with their regulations. Smaller liberal arts colleges, such as Haverford and Swarthmore in Delaware County, have essentially made their campuses an impenetrable bubble. Students that moved into dorms will stay there and take almost all of their classes from their room, and off-campus students are not allowed to use campus facilities. While this is easier to achieve at small colleges with private campuses, city schools like Temple struggle.
Meaghan Burke is a junior at Temple University. She moved back onto campus and is still there, despite all of her classes suddenly going virtual after one week. “Temple has been anything but transparent,” Burke said, “At most times, including now, I had no idea what was happening.” While Meaghan feels as safe as she can be, she recognizes that Temple’s location in a Philadelphia neighborhood makes it difficult to track or contain cases. “Temple should never have allowed students to return to campus in the first place,” Meaghan said.
West Chester University did exactly that; no in person classes will be held during the fall semester. Students have been allowed to move into dorms, but freshmen Riley McColgan decided to stay home. “I feel as though campus would be safe though…I think West Chester is following all guidelines that they can,” Riley said. Riley also feels as though West Chester is doing their best to update students when they can and telling them anything they can. “It’s hard to start my college experience all online,” McColgan said, “but it is better than the alternative of having to risk being unsafe.”
As many schools play the “wait and see” game with covid cases, just as many have decided to return to as close to normal as possible. With cases back on the rise in Pennsylvania, the immediate future of local colleges hangs in the balance.
sources: kutztown.edu, readingeagle.com, inquirer.com