Harvard classes all online for 2020-21 academic year


Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Harvard will house up to 40 percent of its undergraduates this fall.

Charlie Wolfson, news staff

Harvard University announced Monday that all instruction will be online for the 2020-21 academic year. The Cambridge-based private school will bring up to 40 percent of its undergraduates back to its campus this fall, but even those living on campus will receive instruction virtually instead of in classrooms.

All first-year students will be invited to move to the campus this fall, according to the announcement posted to the university’s website, and the tentative plan for the spring semester is to bring the entire senior class to campus for that term. 

“We also will invite back to campus those students who may not be able to learn successfully in their current home learning environment,” the announcement read.

Those who live on campus will each have a single-occupancy bedroom, though some may share bathrooms. No off-campus visitors will be allowed into Harvard buildings, including Harvard students who aren’t living on campus.

Harvard will not alter its tuition for this online-only year — it will remain at the previously announced rate of about $49,000 for the year, not including fees, room or board. 

According to the Monday announcement, students who reside on campus this fall will be required to undergo viral testing upon arrival and every three days after that. 

The plan is different – and more conservative in some ways – than Northeastern’s plan for the fall semester.

Northeastern announced NUflex, a hybrid system offering in-person classes with lower density and an opt-out for students. Northeastern is decreasing its housing density by adding some 2,000 beds, but it isn’t mandating a lower-than-usual percentage of students living on campus. 

Northeastern has announced that no visitors will be allowed in on-campus residence halls, but it’s unclear what the rules are for other campus buildings. Northeastern will have double-occupancy rooms, unlike Harvard. 

A few areas where the two universities’ plans align are tuition, viral testing and quarantine housing.

Both schools intend to deploy a robust COVID-19 testing system. Northeastern indicated that students would be subject to baseline testing upon arrival in the fall but didn’t set a specific schedule for asymptomatic testing whereas Harvard will enforce testing every three days. Both schools say they have bedrooms set aside for those who test positive for COVID-19. 

Northeastern, like its neighbor across the Charles, will not decrease its tuition for those who opt for online learning this fall. 

Harvard’s new plan tentatively applies to the spring 2021 semester, but its announcement does say that it will adjust based on the changing realities of the pandemic. It leaves open the possibilities of further decreasing campus operations as well as increasing it to closer to normal. 

Northeastern has not announced any plans for the spring semester at this time.