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Universities And Colleges Plan For Fall Term Amid Uncertainty

Oregon State University

Colleges and universities in Oregon are still unsure what their fall terms will look like amid the ongoing uncertainties caused by the coronavirus.

Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order banning most in-person activities at Oregon’s colleges and universities expires next week. State higher education officials told an Oregon Senate panel Tuesday that the closure order will likely be extended but with an added set of criteria that the schools would have to meet before re-opening.

That leaves unanswered questions for the moment.

“There’s still a lot that we don’t know," said Portland State University Provost Susan Jeffords. "We also know that this fall will not be a normal term, and we will continue to work tirelessly to deliver all students access to a quality education.”

Like their K-12 counterparts, colleges and universities largely switched over to online education to finish out the spring term. Most schools say the fall will likely be a combination of in-person and virtual learning.

Oregon State University has told its students that some on-campus instruction could resume as early as late July. The school will hold a pair of virtual public forums this week to discuss re-opening plans for its Corvallis campus.

Meanwhile, the pandemic and shift to remote learning has had little effect on enrollment at the state's public universities. The number of undergraduate and graduate students declined during the spring term, but only slightly, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

The hit to community college enrollment was more pronounced, however. The agency said the number of students fell by 18 percent from the same period last year. The biggest drop was in the number of students taking Career Technical Education classes. Some schools struggled to offer "virtual" versions of those classes, which usually require hands-on classroom instruction.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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