In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton University has unveiled its plan for the upcoming academic year—a course of action that includes condensed semesters with only half the student body on campus.
In a July 6 message to the community, Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber reinforced Princeton’s goal to provide high-quality education remotely and offer residential options for undergraduates while protecting the health and safety of the community.
Undergraduate students will be able to return to campus for one semester during the 2020-21 academic year, with first-year students and juniors welcomed to campus for the fall semester, and sophomores and seniors for the spring semester. Most academic instruction will remain online, and all undergraduates will have the option to complete the entire year remotely, at home or elsewhere. The university typically has a residency requirement, which it has waived for this academic year.
All graduate students who wish to may stay in campus graduate housing for the upcoming academic year.
The fall semester will start two days earlier, on Monday, August 31, and fall break will be reduced from a full week to a long weekend. Students will leave campus before Thanksgiving and the fall semester reading period and exams will be fully remote thereafter. For the spring semester, the university will reduce the spring break week to a long weekend, also to reduce travel.
“Over the last two months, my colleagues and I have been studying the pandemic and identifying measures we can take to accommodate students on campus,” Eisgruber said in his message. “COVID-19 is still a very new disease, and much remains unknown about it. Several points have, however, become clear. Based on the information now available to us, we believe Princeton will be able to offer all of our undergraduate students at least one semester of on-campus education this academic year, but we will need to do much of our teaching online and remotely.”
Princeton’s plans follow public health guidelines for colleges and universities and abide by state rules that limit how many students can live in dormitories, require social distancing in classrooms and public spaces, and prohibit large in-person gatherings.
Students and employees will be required to complete an online training related to the university’s health and safety policies before moving into campus housing or receiving approval to resume work on campus. In addition, all undergraduates must sign Princeton’s social contract affirming that they understand the university’s health and safety restrictions and will accept the responsibility to abide by them if they come to campus.
The university will test students for COVID-19 when they arrive and regularly thereafter. Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be isolated, whether they have symptoms or not. Quarantine—separating people who are, or may have been, exposed to COVID-19, but are not showing signs of illness—will be mandatory for students who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. University Health Services will continue to oversee testing, case management and contact tracing for students on campus.
Every person on campus, including visitors, will be required to wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth at all times while indoors, except when they are alone in a space or are students in their assigned rooms or apartments. People are not required to wear a face covering outdoors if they are able to maintain physical distancing of at least six feet, with the exception of members of their household/suitemates.
To compensate, Princeton will discount tuition by 10% for all students during 2020-21, whether they are on campus or learning remotely. The discounted rate will be used to calculate financial aid packages for students eligible for aid. There will be no activities and athletics fees, and room and board charges will be pro-rated for students departing the campus at Thanksgiving break. Only one meal plan will be offered in the fall for undergraduate students. The university’s website estimated tuition before discounts to be $53,890 in 2020-21, with an additional $21,000 in fees.
Undergraduate students will be assigned private sleeping spaces (single rooms or within suites). First-year students will be housed in their residential college. Similarly, in the spring, sophomores will return to their residential college. Movement around colleges and dormitories will be restricted.