With concerns of the coronavirus continuing into the fall and next school year, colleges and universities across the nation are struggling with whether to reopen their campuses, and if so, how.

On the one hand are the health risks associated with density if students return to the dorms, classrooms and facilities, especially to older faculty and staff members as well as the greater communities. On the other hand are the interruption or derailment of educations, concern about the isolation of online learning and economic loss for institutions, college towns and regions.

Marquette University is still in the planning stages for the fall semester but does plan to open the campus to in-person classes for the start of the fall semester Wednesday, Aug. 26, said John M. Baworowsky, Ph.D., vice president for enrollment management.

“We are working on plans for social distancing in the classroom,” he said. “It will necessitate moving some classes to larger rooms and other adjustments.”

To accommodate students and mitigate risk of transferring the virus, some of the residence halls will be de-densified to allow more space between students. Classrooms will be arranged for students to accommodate social distancing practices. The school is still in the planning stages in regards to the logistics but hopes to have a solid plan in place within the next couple of weeks.

None of the incoming students have expressed any nervousness or concern about coming to classes in the fall or moving into the dorms, said Baworowsky.

“Rather, we hear that students are looking forward to coming to campus,” he said. “Our enrollment is down about 13 percent in new students; however, returning students registered for fall is about 1 percent over last year at this time.”

To accommodate students unable to attend in-person classes, Marquette has always incorporated both remote learning and hybrid courses, which combine online classes with in-classroom learning. They will continue to offer options for both remote learning and in-classroom courses in the fall.

“We will be offering final exams remotely the week after Thanksgiving,” said Baworowsky.

To mitigate cheating on exams since students are not monitored in a classroom while taking remote exams, Marquette students take an honor pledge at the beginning of the year. Additionally, the school’s Center for Teaching and Learning are working with Marquette’s Committee on Teaching to promote development of assessments across the semester.

“This way, the final exam isn’t as large a part of the final grade,” said Baworowsky. “Finally, we also use proctoring software to help minimize cheating.”

Next summer, Marquette hopes to bring back in-person summer courses and activities. Currently, all summer academic courses are distance-learning only. In addition, the school’s Educational Opportunity Program will also be done remotely. The EOP is a federally funded academic program that motivates and enables low-income and first-generation students whose parents do not have a baccalaureate degree to enter and succeed in higher education.

While Marquette University classes will look a bit different this year, Baworowsky said they are unsure when they will return to a pre-COVID educational model.

“It is impossible to predict,” he explained. “I suspect it will be after we have a vaccine for the virus and the public health officials give us the green light to relax social distancing.”