Disruption continues as universities announce spring semester changes

Universities are changing their schedules again to keep students safe from COVID-19 outbreaks, opting to keep classes online, cancel in-person graduation and do away with spring break.
rows of empty seats in a classroom
(Getty Images)

Colleges and universities have changed their spring schedules as the the coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, with many announcing plans to continue remote instruction into the spring semester, cancelling spring break and once again deciding to hold graduation ceremonies online.

The fall semester had an inauspicious start with numerous institutions reporting COVID-19 outbreaks among student populations after leaders at universities prepared in earnest over the summer to bring students back to campus to resume in-person classes. And while many universities held out hope that education could begin returning to normal by the spring semester after fall’s rocky start, the persistence of COVID-19 and continued reports of outbreaks on college campuses has forced institutions to recognize that cannot yet go back to business as usual.

So far, colleges and universities in California, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont and Washington state have announced changes to their spring semesters.

Classes stay virtual for spring semester


The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is among those to change its plans, announcing last week that it will continue to hold classes online for the spring 2021 semester.

GW President Thomas LeBlanc said in a message to students and faulty that there was a “general consensus for continuing virtual education into the spring.”

“We believe that this path best supports the health and safety of our community while allowing us to continue to fulfill our core academic mission,” LeBlanc said.

Several other universities, including the California State University system; University of California, Berkeley; Washington State University; Wichita State University in Kansas; and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have also announced that classes will continue to be held virtually into the spring semester.

California State University Chancellor Timothy White said in a Sept. 10 announcement that the 23 campuses in the CSU system will hold the majority of spring classes online, with limited numbers of students in residence halls.


“This decision is the only responsible one available to us at this time,” White said in the announcement.

The University of California, Berkeley announced on Sep. 29 the majority of its classes would be online, and Wichita State University and Carnegie Mellon University announced they will give students the option to either courses fully online or use a hybrid model that combines limited in-person and online instruction.

Spring breaks cancelled

Still other universities, including Florida State University, Ohio State University, the University of Tennessee, Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Kansas State University, the University of Kentucky, Iowa State University, Purdue University and Davidson College have also changed their spring semester schedules. All those schools announced they were canceling spring break to reduce travel that could result in more COVID-19 cases.

“As our highest priority remains the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, Florida State University has adopted a new calendar for the Spring 2021 semester,” FSU Provost Sally McRorie said in a message to students and faculty announcing that the university has canceled spring break.


University of Kentucky leadership also voiced concerns about travel in its announcement to eliminate spring break, saying that the “revised calendar creates a condensed semester in which students remain engaged in coursework on campus, rather than potentially traveling to other regions and returning to Lexington, which would increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

Graduates celebrate online, again

Fall graduation ceremonies are also beginning to move online after universities hoped to host celebrations in-person this semester.

Arizona State University, Florida State University, University of South Alabama and Mississippi University for Women all announced that their in-person graduation ceremonies for fall graduates are cancelled over concerns that large gatherings would put students, faculty and families at risk of infection.

Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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