Why 4 more colleges will cap number of returning students

Amherst College sets 1,250-student limit; other schools plan to
By: | July 2, 2020
At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire plans to invite about half the student body back to campus for each term during the 2020-21 academic year. (Photo: Dartmouth College)At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire plans to invite about half the student body back to campus for each term during the 2020-21 academic year. (Photo: Dartmouth College)

Several more colleges this week announced plans to control coronavirus by inviting different groups of students back to campus for different stretches of the 2020-21 academic year.

In their fall reopening announcements, many administrators also recognized some students would be upset about not being invited back campus.

Amherst College in Massachusetts, for example, will cap its campus population at 1,200-1,250 students for the fall. That represents just over 60 percent of the college’s enrollment and about three-quarters of the students who said they wanted to return.

Priority will be given to first-year students, sophomores and seniors scheduled to graduate at the end of the fall semester.


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Transfer students and seniors who studied abroad last school year will also have first-choice at living on campus.

Administrators acknowledge the cap will disappoint some students, President Biddy Martin wrote in a message to campus.

“However, we needed to balance this desire with the need to lower the density on campus, assign only one student per room in the residence halls, ensure a low student-to-bathroom ratio, and have confidence in the availability of healthcare resources, both on campus and in the region,” Martin wrote.

First-year students get priority

Administrators at Spelman College in Atlanta have determined campus can safely accommodate 629 students, which represents 25%-30% of the school’s enrollment

In Spelman’s reopening plan, administrators said they reached this number by determining how many students would be able to live in single rooms in the 40-acre campus’ air-conditioned residence halls.

Spelman’s administrators also decided to give priority to first-year students when inviting students back to campus. Also, the only first-year students will be able to attend classes in-person.


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“We know, based on your feedback, that the online experience is not a substitute for the rich set of experiences that make up being in residence on the Spelman campus,” the plan says. “None of us are content.”

Tuition discounts offered

At Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, only first-year students and sophomores can live on campus in the fall while juniors and seniors will be able to return in the spring.

While off-campus, students will take classes online.

All students will be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive, and be tested regularly while they are on campus. Classroom capacities will be cut by 50% or more, the college has announced.

Like some other schools, Mount Holyoke is discounting tuition for 2020-2021. All students, whether remote or on-campus, will receive a 4.5% tuition credit of $2,448.

Choosing when to be on-campus

At Dartmouth College in nearby New Hampshire, about half the student body will be invited to campus for each term.

All students may be able to spend two terms on campus. Incoming first-year students will have priority for fall and for spring terms, while other students will be asked to rank their preferences for their second term.


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Students will be required to take a coronavirus test and quarantine for 14 days after they arrive for the fall term, which begins Sept. 14.

Dartmouth administrators are also setting aside several halls as quarantine locations for students who test positive for the virus.

Students in the class of 2024 have been allowed to postpone their enrollment for one year, according to the college’s student newspaper, The Dartmouth. 


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.


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