Here’s when and how colleges plan to start fall semester

University of Notre Dame's fall term begins mid-summer and ends before Thanksgiving
By: | May 19, 2020
A growing number of colleges and universities are announcing plans to reopen their campus to students for a fall semester with big changes.A growing number of colleges and universities are announcing plans to reopen their campus to students for a fall semester with big changes.

In-person fall semesters are taking shape across the country as colleges plan to reopen with terms that start anytime from mid-summer to early October.

The University of Notre Dame’s fall term begins mid-summer, on Aug 10, and ends before Thanksgiving, without a fall break, President Rev. John I. Jenkins has announced in letters to the campus.

“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” Jenkins said. “Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”


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The university says it will conduct comprehensive coronavirus testing and contact tracing, and officials have identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine students who have been in close contact.

Administrators will also establish social distancing and mask requirements, with campus signage to remind the community of best health practices.

Faculty will prepare to offer courses in-person and remotely so any student in isolation or quarantine can participate.

University of Notre Dame faculty are preparing for a fall semester of in-person and remote teaching. (GettyImages.com/ReDunnLev)

University of Notre Dame faculty are preparing for a fall semester of in-person and remote teaching. (GettyImages.com/ReDunnLev)

This college plans to reopen in October

Ithaca College in New York, on the other hand, plans to bring students back to campus later than usual, on Oct. 5.

President Shirley M. Collado says 2020-2021 will be a “full academic year.” She has created a Return to Campus Task Force to ensure the college meets all health and safety guidelines.

An Academic Success and Student Engagement Coordinating Committee will focus on maintaining the school’s standards for academic success and student engagement.


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Meanwhile, the school’s athletic department is exploring ways to “re-engage in intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports,” Collado said in a message to campus.

“I know that other institutions and schools may announce that they are planning to open the fall semester sooner than we are,” Collado said. “But by putting a stake in the ground—right now—for an October 5 start … we are intentionally delivering necessary time for all of us to plan, prepare, and thoughtfully align toward a common goal as this public health crisis continues to evolve.”

Fall semester ‘will be different’

At the University of South Carolina, in-person classes will resume on Aug. 20 and continue through Thanksgiving break.

The university plans to go fully online for the remainder of the semester in December when another spike in coronavirus cases is expected to coincide with flu season.

Leaders at the University of Montana are also planning for a face-to-face fall semester.


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President Seth Bodnar says administrators throughout the university system are developing plans for a fall semester that starts early and ends before Thanksgiving break.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s fall semester will run from Aug. 18 to Nov. 24, with no fall break. Faculty will conduct final exams online, Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. announced this week.

“It is clear, however, that the experience this fall will be different than anything in recent memory,” Gilliam said. “This plan reduces the need for people to leave campus, disperse widely, and then return in the middle of the semester. Limiting movement is key for managing virus spread.”


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