Coronavirus: Louisiana colleges want students to return this fall, but summer is online

Leigh Guidry
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Most college students in Louisiana will continue remote learning for summer classes, but administrators hope to have them back on campus in the fall.

"In the fall we expect to be on campus, probably with restrictions and certainly in a posture that puts the safety and health of our faculty and staff first and foremost," said Jim Henderson, president and CEO of the University of Louisiana System.

Louisiana colleges and universities shifted to online learning in March as Gov. John Bel Edwards closed public schools and signed a statewide stay-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That shift was bigger than it will be for summer classes, because there are fewer students in the summer. And most summer classes already are offered online.

University of Louisiana System President and CEO Jim Henderson

Henderson said about 80% or more of the nine ULS universities' summer offerings have been online, so moving to a higher percentage won't be as big of a lift.

Some schools will offer specific face-to-face classes this summer, such as clinical graduate courses in Northwestern State University's College of Nursing and School of Allied Health.

At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, all summer intersession courses will be online, though some summer semester courses are expected to be available in person. But they may transition to remote delivery if necessary because of COVID-19, according to the university.

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"Looking at summer classes, a vast majority will be remote learning. There will be select classes in-person where it is required (to meet certification requirements, for example)," said Eric Maron, senior communications representative at UL. "In those circumstances, extra efforts will be taken to ensure student and instructor safety and health."

Students return to campus at The University of Louisiana for the first day of Fall Semester.  Monday, Aug. 26, 2019.

Some schools are considering offering in-person mini-term courses later in the summer should state mandates allow, Henderson said.

Start dates for the fall semester likely will stay the same, Henderson said.

Louisiana State University System campuses are doing the same, sticking to mostly online offerings this summer. 

"Summer online courses cover the same information and are taught by the same professors as those held on campus," according to LSU's website. "Enrolled students also receive the same quality of advising and support."

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LSU also is offering a 15 percent discount on tuition and fees for the majority of summer courses, including intersession. This discount applies to in-state and out-of-state students.

At LSU of Alexandria, summer 2020 sources will be 100% online, Chancellor Paul Coreil said.

"Given the uncertainties of the next few weeks and months, we have been considering contingency plans for delivery of our courses this summer," Coreil said. "There will be no face-to-face courses for any of the summer terms."

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This change affects a relatively small number of courses —approximately 25-30, he said.

"But for the students enrolled in those courses the impact can still be significant," he said, encouraging faculty and staff "to continue exercising flexibility and do what we can to assist our students as they strive to continue their studies and stay on track towards graduation." 

Universities across Louisiana and the country are starting to plan for the return to campuses, but administrators remain cautious.

"As we begin planning our return, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go in our fight against COVID-19," said Dan Layzell, LSU's executive vice president and chief financial officer. "This battle is not over, even though things are beginning to trend in a positive direction."

Protective efforts remain in place at LSU and other schools, such as limited access to buildings, closed gathering spots, virtual university-sponsored activities and only specifically approved personnel allowed to return to campuses.

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