Five ways COVID-19 will continue to change Pittsburgh college life this spring

by Naomi Harris

With COVID-19 cases rising following the holidays and an expected lengthy vaccine rollout, Pittsburgh-area colleges and universities are bracing for another difficult semester. How things will look for students and faculty this spring will be informed by lessons from the fall.

“The whole thing has been a real challenge for everybody, but I believe that the response from the students and the faculty and the administration has really made the best of this particular time,” said Susan O’Rourke, faculty senate chair at Carlow University.

Colleges are readjusting schedules to start the spring semester later, expanding COVID-19 testing, asking for student input on the fall semester and creating connections with classmates and professors — both online and in-person. Meanwhile, they face challenges like tighter budgets and deflated enrollment. 

The University of Pittsburgh, for instance, is monitoring case metrics and advice from health officials before announcing a date when it would bring thousands of students back to campus. On Friday, the university advised students not to travel yet and said it wouldn’t advise travel until the last week of January, at the earliest. During a senate council meeting, university officials reinforced the need to be flexible as COVID-19 cases and the impact of the holiday season could change the infection rate.

Some universities are also preparing for students who initially signed up for online-only classes to come back to campus in the spring. Keith Paylo, the vice president of student affairs at Point Park University, said it is a good sign students feel more comfortable coming back. That feeling is echoed at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

“I think back to other generations and how they have had to go through some tough things and what it taught them — and so I am seeing a level of resilience,” Seton Hill President Mary Finger said of the students. 

What will college life be like in the spring? These Pittsburgh-area schools shared lessons they’re taking into the new semester. 

Chatham University has been able to expand COVID-19 testing, compared to the start of the fall semester. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

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Five ways COVID-19 will continue to change Pittsburgh college life this spring

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