A number of U.S. colleges and universities are canceling in-person classes and moving to online instruction due to the threat of the coronavirus.
They’re asking students to leave dorms and campus housing, too, amid the rising cases of COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.
Administrators are closing dorms to curb the spread of the virus, but that has left a growing number of students in a housing bind. International students, in particular, are uncertain of where to go and are facing a steep cost to return home, which they may not be able to afford, Curbed.com reported.
Cornell University announced that students could petition for an exception to remain in student housing, but school officials are unsure yet of the procedure.
“Students have reacted with a mix of emotions,” Joseph Anderson, president of Cornell’s student assembly, told Curbed.com. “There has been fear from international students about their visa status. A lot of low-income students don’t know if they can afford flights home. LGBTQ students who aren’t accepted by their families are also extremely concerned. There is also a lot of confusion as to how some classes will continue virtually, as some classes are not conducive to a virtual setting and students worry about their academic success.”
What’s more, Curbed.com reports the closures could make housing inventory challenges even worse. About 60% of community college students and 48% of four-year college students report facing housing insecurity, according to surveys and research from the Hope Center at Temple University. Housing insecurity is defined as an inability to pay rent or utilities, or the need to move frequently. Eighteen percent of community college students and 14% of four-year college students also report having been homeless at some point in college.
Some college students may depend on their colleges for food and employment, too.
Other colleges and universities are moving to online instruction but have not closed their dorms. Northeastern University in Boston, for example, has moved to online classes but continues to allow students to stay in the residence halls.
“We are seeking to preserve the essence of a Northeastern education—including current co-op placements—while also taking prudent steps to reduce the risk of infection within our community,” President Joseph E. Aoun said in a statement.