The University of Alaska Anchorage started its fall semester on Monday.
And, college during the coronavirus means nearly all classes will be online only and fewer students will live on campus.
UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen made the call to go virtual back in May, and said it was an easy decision given how the coronavirus spreads.
“We know that universities are places where lots of people come from different places and congregate in close proximity to one another,” she said. “So, by their very nature, they’re a risky environment.”
Already this fall, health officials have linked coronavirus outbreaks to reopened universities in other states, forcing some of the institutions to quickly quarantine students or end in-person classes completely.
At UAA, Sandeen said, she’s expecting a quiet campus this semester.
Most faculty and staff are working from home, she said.
Also, about 80% of classes across UAA campuses are solely online. Most of the others are a hybrid model, with some in-person lessons, like a hands-on lab, Sandeen said.
She said people on campus will have to wear a face mask when around others. UAA has also boosted cleanings and limited access to buildings.
By Thursday, about 11,000 students had enrolled in fall classes at UAA — down nearly 10% from August 2019. The university saw a similar decline last year.
About 230 students will live on campus this fall, said Bruce Schultz, UAA’s vice chancellor for student affairs. That’s about a quarter of the normal total.
Schultz said students had to meet certain criteria to live on campus, like inadequate internet access at home. Students each have their own dorm room. They won’t share bathrooms.
“Then the way that they receive their dining meals is going to be a little bit different as well: They’ll do a pick-up service rather than actually having a meal in the dining hall,” Schultz said.
UAA also has several floors available to house students who need to quarantine if they’re exposed to the virus, or to isolate if they become infected.
Schultz said the university is focused on keeping as much student life going as possible this year — just in a different way. That includes training for student organizations on how to meet online.
It’s still unclear what spring semester will look like at UAA. Sandeen said she hopes to have a decision by October.
Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-550-8447.