Illinois Wesleyan President Georgia Nugent said the university is preparing for at least some online instruction in the fall because of the pandemic that has kept the campus closed since March.
Nugent said if classrooms can open but need to allow for social distancing, it could be a problem.
“Many of our classrooms would only be able to handle about 15% of their capacity,” Nugent said. “So this is going to be an enormous challenge on every front.”
Nugent said the university will likely need to make online instruction available, possibly in a hybrid format with in-person instruction.
She said plans for the fall semester remain “murky” and are changing by the day; the university has planning groups working on things like student housing, technology, dining and athletics.
Nugent said the university is considering an earlier start to the school year so students wouldn't have to come back after Thanksgiving to limit the risk of COVID-19 infection. She said IWU hopes to have a plan in place by mid-July so students and faculty can better prepare.
Despite uncertainty about where students will be back on campus this fall because of the pandemic, Nugent said early enrollment projections are strong.
“We don’t understand it, frankly," she quipped. "I know from my conversations with other presidents that this is not happening at other colleges."
IWU's enrollment is currently 9% ahead of last year’s pace, according to John Twork, the university's assistant director of communications. Final enrollment numbers won't be announced until after the semester begins.
Nugent noted many universities are preparing for a 20% drop in enrollment because in-person instruction might not be possible this fall, or at least significantly limited.
IWU previously announced it was eliminating four programs that saw lower enrollment: American culture studies; design, technology and entrepreneurship; Greek and Roman Studies; and international business. The university has said it is considering other academic changes that a task force has produced.
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