On campus or off campus? Higher education leaders plan for next year amid COVID-19 unknowns

Posted at 5:50 PM, May 12, 2020

WISCONSIN — As universities and colleges across the country finish out the academic year remotely, school leaders are already proactively working to figure out how they will operate next fall.

Milwaukee School of Engineering plans to be back on campus at the start of the next school year.

President John Walz said he’s confident they can hold classes in Milwaukee come the fall.

“We believe we can open and keep our place safe,” Walz said.

School doesn’t start until early September, but he said students and faculty are telling him they want to be back in-person.

“We’re a very hands-on, application-focused education, that’s our distinguishing feature, and we can do some of that in an online mode, but it places limitations on how much you can do,” Walz said.

MSOE moved to virtual learning in March when the COVID-19 outbreak got worse, and if things aren’t better by the fall, Walz said they can do that again.

“We’re not going to do anything that we think puts students, faculty, staff at an undo risk,” Walz said.

However, in the meantime they’re going full steam ahead, discussing everything from smaller lab groups to increased disinfection, placing classes in larger spaces, and still holding big lectures online.

“There’s a lot of great ideas. It’s just a matter of which ones work for us,” Walz said.

Concordia University in Mequon is doing the same.

Senior Vice President of University Affairs Gretchen Jameson admits she’s unsure where we’ll be next fall, but said they’re putting their energy into planning for an on-campus experience.

“Barring any other prohibitive guidance from the state, we are intending to be back on campus in the fall,” Jameson said.

They’re also working on a contingency plan.

“If we have to pivot, we’re getting really good at pivoting, we’ll do it,” Jameson said.

The two schools are both preparing for a future back on campus, despite whatever comes their way.

TMJ4 News reached out to several other higher education institutions in the area about their plans for the fall. Here’s where they stand:

University of Wisconsin System
In a news release from April 30, President Ray Cross addressed the situation. “We fully expect to remain open in the fall,” said Cross. “How we deliver education for students depends on a number of factors.”

Marquette University
Marquette University will resume campus operations this fall if governmental and medical authorities say it is safe to do so.

Carroll University in Waukesha
We are beginning to discuss, but it will likely be a couple months before decisions are announced.

Carthage College in Kenosha
Carthage is actively engaged in planning for a wide range of possibilities for the fall. We're looking at several scenarios and because we've made the transition to remote instruction during the 2020 Spring semester, we would be prepared to do the same in the fall, if needed. Plans are of course contingent on how certain restrictions play out from state and federal leaders. i.e. "Stay at Home" order.

Milwaukee Area Technical College
The health and safety of Milwaukee Area Technical College students and employees continues to be our highest priority. This spring, we converted more than 1,600 classes online, discovered innovative ways to offer virtual instruction and received positive feedback from instructors and students. With that in mind, we are planning to grow the percentage of our classes that will be online in fall. We also plan to offer in-person classes for hands-on programs that require it so long as health officials believe it is safe and healthy to do so.

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