Louisiana’s colleges will move to full virtual after Thanksgiving

Students won’t have option of in-person classes

By: - November 21, 2020 2:34 pm
LSU Clock Tower

LSU’s War Memorial Tower looms over portions of the Baton Rouge campus. (Photo by Julie O’Donoghue/Louisiana Illuminator)

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.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Among his recognitions are McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association. Muller is an alumnus of Jesuit High School and the University of New Orleans and is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Louisiana with his wife and two sons.