Most of Louisiana’s colleges and universities will move to full virtual classes and not report to traditional classrooms after the Thanksgiving holidays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Reed.
Reed spoke to the Resilient Louisiana Commission meeting Friday. The commission, which Gov. John Bel Edwards established to determine ways the state can better protect itself against disruptions such as public health emergencies and natural disasters, spent most of the meeting discussing the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on education.
Many universities had planned to move to a virtual-only schedule for months, as a precaution against COVID-19 and flu cases spiking when the weather got colder and people started traveling for the holidays.
“What you’ll see in the next week that is different for us in higher education is most of our institutions, public and private, will move online after Thanksgiving, and our students will not report back to campus after the Thanksgiving holidays,” Reed said. “They’ll complete their studies online — 100 percent online.”
The current fall semester has seen a roughly equal one-third spread of enrollment across traditional, virtual and hybrid classes. In 2019, about 80 percent of students were enrolled in traditional in-person classes while 18 percent were virtual and 2 percent were hybrid.
Also in the spring, some colleges and universities, including LSU and Southern University, will have a condensed schedule with fewer days off for spring break, Mardi Gras and other holidays.
Louisiana’s higher education system is working to bring more COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and research to campuses. College campuses have seen about 5,700 confirmed cases this semester, Reed said. Four-year universities in the state have had mostly stable enrollment this year, but the same cannot be said for community colleges.
“The major hit has been to our community colleges,” Dr. Kim Reed
Reed did not provide figures specific to Louisiana, but enrollment has declined nationally by about 10 percent, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which attributed the decline largely to the pandemic.
In recent weeks, Louisiana has seen an increase in coronavirus numbers across the board, including case count, hospitalizations, deaths and percent positivity rates. Total cases reached more than 216,000 Friday with daily case counts above 2,000.