With COVID-19 infection rates on the rise across the country and colleges preparing to get students back to class in the fall, one of the obvious questions parents and students are asking is how the students’ living accommodations will be affected by the pandemic. The safety of students and staff is the primary concern for college officials, but the logistics of ensuring they won’t face an outbreak are daunting.
Parents of students who choose a school close to home have the option to allow their child to live at home and commute, but students attending schools farther away don’t have that luxury. While the security of having their child live in a campus dormitory usually is comforting for a parent, many are now thinking an off-campus studio apartment may be a better choice. Consider these issues that all students are facing this fall.
Although students long for a traditional college experience, the fall 2020 semester is sure to be far from traditional. As Debra Felix, a former director of admissions at Columbia University, says, “Students who get back to campus are going to find themselves on very different campuses and in a very different environment than they expected.” Many schools are opting only to allow single-occupancy dorms for the fall semester, while others are allowing double occupancy with restrictions on the use of common areas like bathrooms, showers, and lounges. No matter what approach administrators take, the one certain fact is that the on-campus population will be considerably less than it is during a typical school year.
With 40% of students at public universities living off-campus, students started seeing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their housing arrangements at the end of the spring semester. Fearful of contracting the coronavirus, many students have felt torn about whether to remain in apartments they share with others, but feel trapped by the conditions of their lease. Others have been facing the issue of signing a lease for the coming year, as the uncertainty of whether schools will be able to continue operating sets in. It creates a complicated situation, as many students work to pay for off-campus accommodations, and some have lost their jobs. Some who have already fallen behind on rent payments have been evicted. Unfortunately, since no one knows what the pandemic has in store, there is no concrete way to know how to proceed.
Regardless of whether a student lives at home, in a dorm, or in an apartment this fall, the next semester is going to be far different from any other year. Students got a taste of the changes the pandemic will bring at the end of the last semester, but most had hopes of things getting back to normal by August. The one thing everyone can agree on is that every measure must be taken to keep students safe and try to provide them with a quality education and college experience they will cherish for life.