Colleges and universities are looking ahead to the spring semester as the pandemic continues.
Schools like Georgetown University, Smith College, Princeton University and the University of Florida (UF) are either inviting undergrads to live on campus starting in January, or are bringing back more students for face-to-face learning.
Princeton and UF are among the universities that will test students and staff regularly.
UF already has students living on campus and has more than 14,000 undergrads registered to take in-person classes in the spring.
“We feel it's important to move the campus back to normalcy to the extent possible. Because in the end, a university is really a community of people, living and working and researching together. And we feel it is important to bring people back and reestablish that sense of community,” said Joe Glover, Sr. VP of Academic Affairs at UF.
While having 14,000 undergrads on campus sounds like a large number, that’s less than half of the 36,000 undergrads who are enrolled at the university located in Gainesville. The campus has reduced class sizes and is already near capacity of what they can handle, while being socially distanced.
Before the pandemic, many states required college students to have the bacterial meningitis vaccine if they want to live on campus. That still stands, but now there is a possibility universities could have a similar requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Until it moves from emergency use to a more normal, permanent approval, that will probably remain in the realm of possibility or theoretical possibility,” said Glover.
Ultimately, it is up to states to decide whether this should be a requirement. The earliest states could decide on this is likely about six months from now.