Shortened Semesters on Campus and Full Fees for Room and Board as Connecticut’s Colleges and Universities Face a Steep Fiscal Challenge


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UPDATE: Due to the need for consistency across the Connecticut State College and University System, Southern Connecticut State University will not be offering pro-rated fees for the fall semester, according to Patrick Dilger, the director of integrated communications and marketing at Southern.

Students will be returning to campus in the fall at Connecticut’s four state universities, but in place of the usual crowds on move-in day, the packed classrooms and extracurriculars, students can expect instead a more gradula move-in, limited group activities, a mix of online and classroom learning and regular COVID-19 testing.

The biggest change, according to Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, is that students will not be returning to campus after Thanksgiving and instead will finish the semester online to prevent a possible outbreak of virus from students returning from the break.

That means that all students will depart campus, their dorm rooms and meal plans no later than November 24. The semester, including exams, will be completed away from campus and end on December 23.

Only one of the four state universities – Southern Connecticut State University – is planning to provide students with a pro-rated fee for room and board.

Unless students are forced to leave prior to Thanksgiving due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the rest of the college and university system will still charge for empty rooms and uneaten meals.

“The fees for room and board for the entire 2020-21 school year were established by the Board of Regents in February. The universities’ reopening plans make some adjustments to the calendar, but students will be on campus overall for a very similar amount of time as in past years, and will also benefit from significant new protections including testing, facilities for isolation and quarantine and accommodation for social distancing,” explained Leigh Appleby, director of communications for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.

At some campuses, including Eastern, staggered move-in dates will begin as much as three-weekly early, meaning the time spent on campus by some students will almost equal a typical year.\

5 to 10 percent of residence hall populations will be tested for COVID weekly, according to a June 24 letter to Eastern students, faculty and staff, but the cost of testing will “be covered by student health insurance,” not the university.

With the Connecticut State College and University system forced to refund student room and board for the spring semester, facing reduced residential capacities for the fall, likely fewer tuition-paying international students and with 10 percent declines in enrollment projected by the Board of Regents at three of the four state universities, it is no secret that the Connecticut State College and University system needs to protect revenue — in this case the income from residential students —  however it can.

“There is no sugar coating it. The budgetary impact of COVID-19 will be significant on all colleges and universities, not just in Connecticut, but around the country,” Ojakian said. “It is safe to assume that there will be a continued financial burden. As the fiscal picture becomes more clear, the Board of Regents will make adjustments as necessary.”