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Here's how Michigan universities plan to reopen in the fall

University of Michigan
Katie Raymond
Michigan Radio
Campuses across Michigan have been empty since in-person classes were cancelled in mid-March due to COVID-19.

This post was originally written on June 24. It has been updated to reflect any major changes to universities' plans for the fall semester.

After cancelling face-to-face classes this spring due to COVID-19, many universities across Michigan are gearing up to bring students back to campus this fall. But high-profile cancellations at other universities across the country may lead Michigan schools to re-think that plan. 

The epidemic is far from over. Cases of COVID-19 have started going back up since June in Michigan, and the state is still not testing at a high enough rate.

Universities are trying to balance public health risks with the massive financial costs that would result from not reopening. But some income is expected to be lost regardless of how classes are held. The Big Ten Conference and Mid-American Conference have both decided to postpone college football, a big moneymaker for schools.

Most universities in the state will offer a mix of in-person and online classes to students, put COVID response protocols in place, and adjust their academic calendars to limit student travel to and from campus. But many details are in the process of being sorted at every school, and are expected to change quickly if a school decides it can't contain COVID.

Here’s a breakdown of the various plans universities are putting in place for the upcoming semester:

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan released their “Maize and BluePrint” in June. The university plans to reopen all three campuses in the fall.

In-person classes will be offered from August 31 until November 20. The traditional October fall break has been cancelled. After a nine-day Thanksgiving break, the semester will finish remotely, and final exams will be held online. Classes will resume for the winter semester on January 19, two weeks later than originally planned.

Students will be able to choose in-person, remote, or mixed instruction classes, and the university plans to provide a “robust set of fully remote classes.” According to the plan, “generally, large classes will be held remotely, small classes will be held in person, and medium-size classes will be a hybrid of the two. This and other means can be used to diminish classroom density.”

Social distancing measures will be put in place, and face masks will be required. When students return to campus, they will be encouraged to self-quarantine for two weeks. Dorms and dining halls will also reopen, with restrictions. More details are expected to be announced before the start of the semester.

Although officials feel confident enough to reopen, there are those within the university that are unsure about the plan.

The University of Michigan Graduate Employees’ Organization in particular is unhappy with the lack of clarity from school officials, saying in a statement: “U-M’s reopening plan leaves many questions unanswered, but what we do know at this point shows that it is insufficient to protect graduate students’ health and safety. Our union is in support of having a universal remote and asynchronous option with no documentation requirements. Creating an inclusive, accessible campus community will also require measures to support students who are parents, international students, students of color, students with disabilities, and others.”

U of M has also withdrawn from hosting the second presidential debate in October, citing safety concerns.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University Football Stadium
Credit Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Michigan State University released their reopening plan in early June, saying a mix of in-person and online class would be available.

But on August 18, the university changed course and announced that all classes would be online. In a message to the campus community, MSU President Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr. asked students planning to live on campus for the fall semester to stay home and continue their education remotely.

Exceptions will be made for the colleges of Law, Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine, as well as all graduate programs. Additionally, research initiatives will continue. Those plans will be rolled out over the next few weeks.

Classes will begin on September 2 as scheduled.

A COVID-19 outbreak was connected to the popular student bar Harper’s in June. 34 cases are connected to Harper’s, and anyone who visited the bar from June 12-20 are cautioned to watch for symptoms.

Central Michigan University

Central Michigan’s semester will begin two weeks early on August 17 and will end two weeks early on November 25. Officials say this will allow the community to avoid “peak flu season.”

Students will move back onto campus in waves starting August 13. Regular fall events are likely to be rescheduled.

CMU is still evaluating its spring semester.

Eastern Michigan University

Eastern Michigan was set to have students move into campus on August 27, and hold a number of classes in-person starting August 31. 

But four days before move-in, university officials announced the school would postpone student move-in for three weeks (to September 17), and transition in-person classes to a "near fully online schedule" for the first three weeks of the school year. All classes will begin August 31 as scheduled.

University President James Smith said in a statement, “The events of the last week at campuses across the region and nation demonstrate that despite the best efforts to keep students, employees and communities safe from transmission, the dangers of increasing the spread of the virus and the challenges of maintaining physical distance and safe behavior heading into Labor Day weekend remain quite serious.”

Any students who have already moved into campus housing will be allowed to stay. And, according to a press release, "students who have made housing and dining deposits or payments will receive a full pro-rata credit of those deposits and payments for the time period between their original move-in day and their new move-in day."

EMU made a major change earlier in the summer by announcing applicants for the 2020/21 school year will not be required to submit ACT/SAT test scores.

Ferris State University

Ferris State University is preparing a "full return to in-person campus operations" starting August 24. 

Anyone on campus is required to complete a COVID-19 sympton checker, wear a face mask, and practice social distancing.

The university hasn't changed its original fall schedule, but says any classes that can be held remotely after the Thanksgiving break should do so. 

Grand Valley State University

GVSU will reopen campus in the fall, with no changes to the academic schedule. According to the university website, “University leaders are exploring multiple learning and living scenarios to be as flexible as possible and to accommodate all students safely.”

Part of that flexibility includes three options for classes: face-to-face, hybrid, and online. Each college at the university is responsible for identifying which classes can be adapted to new formats.

Michigan Technological University

Officials at Michigan Tech say that while they fully expect to hold in-person classes this fall, they are prepared to pivot between on-campus and remote instruction when necessary.

The university will have “near-normal” operations in the fall, with residence housing available and other services operating at 75-80% capacity.

Northern Michigan University

Northern Michigan resumed in-person classes in the fall one week early beginning August 17. The fall semester will also end early on November 24.

The university has created a COVID-19 dashboard to track the number of positive cases on campus, which you can find here.

Oakland University

Oakland University was the first school to announce plans to reopen.

Students will be able to choose from a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid classes. Social distancing measures will be in place across campus, including in classrooms. Residence halls will be open, but room occupancy numbers will be adjusted to maintain social distancing.

Oakland has frozen tuition, and costs will not increase this semester.

Saginaw Valley State University

SVSU plans to be fully open and operational this fall, although the school's plan says it is"prepared to teach courses virtually by remote instruction, or through some combination of online and in-person."

You can find the university's COVID-19 case management plan, including test results, here.

Wayne State University

Wayne State will resume classes as scheduled in the fall, with a mixture of traditional, remote, and hybrid classes being offered. 

Officials say they will be flexible with plans as information about the pandemic changes.

The Wayne State University Board of Governors voted to freeze tuition on June 5.

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan will offer a mix of in-person and online classes, with an adjusted schedule to limit travel to and from campus. Classes will be held starting September 2 through Friday, Nov. 20, at noon. After that, any classes that were in-person will finish remotely.

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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