Home Current Events What U.S. Colleges’ Spring 2021 Plans Look Like So Far
What U.S. Colleges’ Spring 2021 Plans Look Like So Far

What U.S. Colleges’ Spring 2021 Plans Look Like So Far


Over the weekend, I watched college and NFL football. The scenes of fans in the stands for Saturday’s televised college football games were as interesting as the scenes from the field.

While it was clear that social distancing and masks had been mandated, it was also clear that more than a few did not take it seriously. I watched a fan during the Notre Dame/Duke game hold her mask down away from her face to speak to a fan immediately next to her. During the Wake Forest/Clemson game, I noticed shots of pockets of fans in the stands who were clustered together, instead of separated.

Of course, this situation differed dramatically from the NFL games. Most stadiums had cardboard images of fans and celebrities in the first five or so rows and no people in the stadium, other than the players and the team staffs.

As an observer of the COVID-19 impact to traditional college campuses, I have not been in favor of holding events like football games where thousands of fans are allowed to watch in the stadium. The revenues from college football television contracts have kept the major conferences in action thus far, while many of their students attend online or hybrid classes and are quarantined whenever they test positive for the virus.

Adding clustering on the level of thousands of people going to a game doesn’t make sense. If you want to play football, keep the players safe and the fans safe by keeping the stands empty.

This morning’s edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education featured an article written by Eric Kelderman titled “Spring Planning Has Begun. Here’s What Colleges Are Thinking So Far.” Mr. Kelderman writes that so far, colleges appear to be planning the same for next spring as they did for this fall. The California State University System announced last week that all classes will be virtual in the spring. Cal State made an early announcement in June for this fall and appears to be doing the same for the spring semester.

While the modalities will be the same for those colleges and universities that have made Spring 2021 announcements, it appears that their calendars are being tweaked. Schools with January terms have announced online courses only for that term. The spring semester is starting later than normal, and spring break is generally being cancelled. The modifications are designed to minimize travel to and from campus, particularly in the middle of flu season.

Given that there is not yet a vaccine, the schools that have announced a continuation of a virtual semester for Spring 2021 are providing everyone with the time to prepare for that change. The schools that brought students back to campus must be vigilant in their testing, observation, and enforcement of safe practices in order to keep the campus open until Thanksgiving.

I predict that we will continue to see campus closures due to the coronavirus. For those campuses, it will be amazing if they announce a return to campus for Spring 2021 if no vaccine is available. The virus has not left us, and it continues to be dangerous. It will disrupt the economics of higher education for a long time.



Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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