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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

As Colleges Decide Fall Plans, Students Could Face Tough Choice

Jordan Holmes
Jordan Holmes
Jordan Holmes is a junior engineering technology major from Chicago. He transferred to ISU.

University leaders across the country face a difficult decision in the coming weeks about whether they can safely reopen their campuses in the fall.

If the answer is no, college students will have a choice of their own.

Vanessa, a freshman from Chicago, said she likely would not stay enrolled at Illinois State University in the fall if students were still kept away from campus for public health reasons. ISU costs about $25,000 for tuition, room, and board, and Vanessa says students who spend their money want the full college experience.

"When I first came to college, I came for the experience. I came to see things, I came to do things."

“Right now during the pandemic, everybody feels like their life is on pause. Everybody is waiting to move on from this, and if the university doesn’t allow us to move on and move forward, then personally I’m going to find a different route to take, just so I feel like I’m progressing from this,” said Vanessa, who asked that her last name not be used for this story.

Vanessa said she is not sure what she would do instead, possibly trade school.

ISU’s summer classes and new-student orientation program will be entirely online. Plans for fall are still up in the air amid uncertainty about the coronavirus. In an email to campus Friday, ISU President Larry Dietz said he’s reviewing “federal, state, and local health information looking for guidance that will allow the University to officially announce a fall reopening.”

“I speak with our faculty and staff about the myriad of tasks required to determine when we can open our doors to you,” Dietz wrote. “Over the next month, we will continue making plans for a safe return of students, faculty, and staff in the fall while also investing time in developing contingency plans should a return to campus in the fall not be realistic.”

Jordan Holmes is a junior engineering technology major from Chicago. He transferred to ISU.

Holmes too is unlikely to return to ISU in the fall if classes are still online-only.

“When I first came to college, I came for the experience. I came to see things, I came to do things, I came to get that on-campus experience like I’ve seen on TV,” he said.

He said the adjustment to online learning has been challenging. He didn’t have a laptop for the first two weeks, making it hard to do assignments. Public computer access, such as libraries, was unavailable.

“I feel like I’m overpaying now, because with online classes, I don’t get the same learning,” Holmes said. “I’d rather go get a trade or something, because I can’t do online learning. It just isn’t for me.”

Aleena Barlow is a senior at Normal West high school. She planned to attend ISU and study psychology. And most likely, she will.

“I don’t want to lose my spot in the program, and I worked very hard to get that,” Barlow said about the possibility of changing her plans. “But again, the costs are kind of high for having virtual learning, so I may rethink it depending on what they say as we get closer to fall.”

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Tiffani Jackson is a reporting intern at WGLT and a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication. She started working at WGLT in summer 2019.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.