In a letter published yesterday, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote that the campus will begin a phased reopening process beginning this summer. But, Blank says that university officials are still unclear on how many of those classes will be in person, and how many will be online.
In March, Blank told the University Committee that UW-Madison will take a $100 million hit from the pandemic. That’s approximately 3.2% of the campus’ $3.1 billion budget. The financial impact was caused by, among other things, housing refunds issued to students who were living in dorms and digital infrastructure costs for moving classes online.
In yesterday’s letter, Blank wrote that UW-Madison plans to decide by the end of July how many classes will be online and how many will be in-person.
Addressing the lack of more specific information in her letter, Blank wrote, “I want to acknowledge the frustration that this lack of certainty causes students and parents…We’ll continue to provide updates with as much information as we are able throughout the summer months.”
A spokesperson for UW-Madison declined to comment on a re-opening strategy.
Jack Daniels is the President of Madison College, also known as Madison Area Technical College. He says the school plans to hold about forty percent of next year’s classes in person, and administrators are trying to figure out how to have classes while following public health procedures.
But, Daniels says 60-65% of Madison College classes will be held online next fall.
“Come the fall, I suspect that we’re going to have different types of configurations when our employees come back. There will be some changes in terms of when folks will be back on our campuses working,” he said.
Unlike the University of Wisconsin, Daniels says Madison College currently doesn’t have any plans to do system-wide COVID-19 testing.
At the moment, the college has not had to furlough or lay off any employees during the pandemic. But, Daniels says the college is planning for a potential drop in enrollment for the next school year, and the financial issues the decline may cause.
“This pandemic affected everyone at the same time and then it had the by-product of economic downturns. As employers reopen, we need to look at what happens to the students. We need to understand what that population’s going to be like. For some folks, if it’s face to face, there might be apprehension about coming back into that type of environment and we have to think through that and consider that,” he said.
Herzing University, another local college, is also developing strategies for reopening. Jeff Hill, the Regional President for Herzing’s Madison and Kenosha campuses, says that the university is planning to reopen many of its in-person seminars and labs this summer.
Hill says that Herzing focuses on training nurses and other medical workers, so its students are at a higher risk than average.
“So anyone that’s going to have to be on campus is going to have to complete a medical screening, answering a series of questions as far as their potential risk of exposure. If it doesn’t pass the threshold, they will not be allowed to get onto campus unless they take a COVID test and are pronounced clear,” he said.
Hill says that, unlike Madison College, Herzing doesn’t predict a potential decline in students. He attributes this to the fact that most of their students are adult learners who typically have more stability than recent high school graduates.
He says the pandemic may actually cause a bump in the nursing school’s enrollment, as the country’s nurse shortage is exacerbated by the pandemic.
“As a general rule, we typically serve primarily adult learners. The vast majority of our students work, have kids and they’re trying to achieve a goal while doing all of these other responsibilities. So, we don’t expect a huge decrease as far as enrollment goes. In fact, we may see a slight uptick just based on the increased demand and interest in the nursing field,” he said.
(Photo c/o WORT News)