Regents approve two weeks of online classes and move-in delay, discuss COVID-19 spread on campus

Students will receive a prorated credit for housing and dining fees, costing the University over $5 million in revenue loss.

Illustration+by+Sarah+Mai

Illustration by Sarah Mai

Hana Ikramuddin and Abbey Machtig

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents voted 8-3 to move fall undergraduate classes online for at least two weeks and to delay residential hall move-in at a virtual special meeting Monday. 

The delay will cost the University millions in revenue loss and online classes may cause a drop in enrollment numbers. The regents also discussed isolation space capacity and estimates for how the virus could spread on campus.

For each 1% drop in systemwide enrollment, the University is expected to lose around $6 million.

Students will receive a prorated credit for their housing and dining fees for the two-week period, costing the University around $5 million in revenue. 

Testing on campus

The board discussed COVID-19 testing capabilities with the University’s Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy Michael Osterholm and Medical School Dean Jakub Tolar.

Tolar used modeling to provide estimates on the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

“[If] you take about 40,000 students, you will have about 1,250 that will be positive. And of these, about 380 will be false positives,” Tolar said. “The bigger problem is that you will end up with 290, roughly, that are false negative.”

Tolar and Osterholm said the majority of these students will not experience extreme health complications.

“I am absolutely convinced that if you look at the population of the University of Minnesota students, that should we see, and we will see large outbreaks, the majority of students will not have life threatening disease,” Osterholm said.

Based on his models, Tolar estimated that around 3% of students could be hospitalized. Nineteen to 20% of faculty ages 60 to 64 could be hospitalized.

Some students who have contracted COVID-19 have been unwilling to be interviewed or tested, Osterholm said. He also spoke on the lack of infrastructure in place to support widespread and frequent testing on campus.

Delayed move-in and in-person classes

“We will let students and parents know our next steps before any housing or tuition deadlines, there will be no financial consequences to any of our students or their families,” said University President Joan Gabel at the meeting.

Students and other members of the University community have spoken out against the move-in delay and shift to online classes, with petitions circulating and others reaching out to members of the board to voice their concerns. 

Following the board’s 8-3 approval, most undergraduate courses will be delivered online from Sept. 8 to Sept. 20 on the Twin Cities and Rochester campuses. In-person classes will begin on Sept. 11 for the Duluth campus.

The Morris and Crookston campuses were not included in these changes, as these areas have low COVID-19 infection levels. Students have already arrived on these campuses.

After this two week period, courses will return to the modality originally chosen by University professors.

“Faculty retain autonomy over the modality of their courses, consistent with public health guidance,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson at the meeting. 

Isolation and quarantine spaces

Public health leaders also provided an update on the University’s ability to provide isolation spaces to students who contract COVID-19.

On the Twin Cities campus, approximately 407 rooms have been designated as isolation areas for students. This number makes rooms available to 9% of students living on campus.

County and city officials will determine isolation areas for students living off-campus, said Jill DeBeu, deputy director of CIDRAP. Hotels near campus may be used.