Harvard’s Fall, Prospective Spring Plan is Cautious Compared to Peer Schools


UPDATED: July 7, 2020 at 12:11 p.m.

Compared with its peers in the Ivy League, Harvard has offered a stringent plan for the fall semester — allowing no more than 40 percent of undergraduates to return to campus at once and keeping all course instruction online.

Harvard College announced Monday that all freshmen and a portion of upperclassmen who receive approval will be allowed to live on campus in the fall semester. Though administrators wrote that plans for the spring semester will not be announced until December, they wrote that allowing the senior class to return to campus will be the priority.

Yale University announced July 1 it will allow freshmen, juniors, and seniors to live on campus in the fall semester, and sophomores, juniors, and seniors to live on campus in the spring semester, in hopes of reducing density to “around 60 percent of normal.”


Like Harvard, Yale is not reducing its tuition, though it will also offer students who do not spend the full year on campus two tuition-free summer courses in 2021.

Princeton University announced July 6 it will allow freshmen and juniors to study on campus in the fall semester and sophomores and seniors to study on campus in the spring semester. All students will also receive a 10 percent tuition reduction for both semesters.

Roughly half of Dartmouth College students will reside on campus each quarter, giving priority to freshmen in the fall and spring terms, per a June 29 announcement. The school operates on a quarterly system with fall, winter, spring, and summer quarters.

Similarly, Stanford University announced on June 3 that though remote online instruction will remain the “default option,” it will offer housing to the equivalent of two classes per academic quarter with the expectation that two quarters will be completed on campus and at least one quarter will be completed online.

Some peer institutions, like Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, announced in late June they will allow students from all classes to return to campus. Both will utilize a hybrid approach to instruction that combines online and in person classes.

Administrators at Cornell wrote that they are reopening its campus in rural Ithaca, N.Y., because they believe it will be a “better option for protecting the public health of our community than a purely online semester.”

Though the University of Pennsylvania will only guarantee housing for freshman and sophomores, it said it will lease off-campus space to accommodate housing for juniors and seniors.

Brown University has yet to announce whether students will return to campus in the fall, though it has set a decision deadline of July 15.

In their announcement, University President Lawrence S. Bacow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay, and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana cited the school’s urban environment and proportion of students who live on campus as two factors that distinguish Harvard from its peers.

“Our bustling urban environment, the ease of grabbing the T into Boston, our intergenerational residential communities that house 98% of our undergraduates, our global research community of students, faculty, staff, postdocs and visitors from around the world – Harvard was built for connection, not isolation,” Bacow, Gay, and Khurana wrote.

On July 7, however, MIT invited only the senior class back to campus for the fall semester, according to The Tech. The school plans to open the campus to first-year students, sophomores, and juniors in the spring.

Other differences in return policies include shipping and storage.

Dartmouth has committed to shipping students who are not returning to campus their belongings. In mid-May, the college offered three options to all of its students: placing belongings in controlled storage, returning to campus for a “structured pickup” in July, or having the college pack and ship belongings, according to The Dartmouth. Both the storage option and the shipping option will be at Dartmouth’s expense.

Harvard told students they could continue to store their belongings with Olympia Storage or have them shipped to their place of residence at their own expense. The school offered a $175 storage stipend to students who are on financial aid.

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.