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UPenn just rolled back return-to-campus plans and is dropping its planned bump in tuition, as more schools reconsider in-person classes

Reed Alexander,Taylor Borden   

UPenn just rolled back return-to-campus plans and is dropping its planned bump in tuition, as more schools reconsider in-person classes
  • The University of Pennsylvania is the latest college to roll back its hybrid reopening plan. On Tuesday, it announced a remote fall semester and urged students not to return to Philadelphia for the sake of public health.
  • Less than half of US universities are planning on a return to campus, a number that continues to sink as the number of coronavirus cases continue to soar.
  • Coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania have been trending upward, which is the basis for the university's decision.
  • The university also announced that it will roll back its previously announced tuition increase — making it not the only Ivy League institution to reconsider an in-person semester or a price cut.

The University of Pennsylvania has become the latest college to announce to students that it's canceling on-campus activities this fall for a majority of its undergraduates, after previously announcing a hybrid return to campus.

The announcement comes as officials in higher education are fearing that reopening college campuses could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases. Many colleges are rolling back decisions to welcome students to campus this fall. Those that are reopening are grappling with how many coronavirus cases would shut them back down again.

"With only very limited exceptions for international students and those students dealing with significant housing or personal hardships, we will not be able to accommodate undergraduate students in University housing," University President Amy Gutmann wrote in a statement posted to the school's website on Tuesday.

Read more: A student-housing developer is facing backlash after pressuring schools to bring college kids back to campus so it could keep its revenues up

The announcement did not address graduate and professional programs, which "will continue to evaluate their own operations," according to the statement.

The statement cited the "alarming" spread of the coronavirus as the reason.

"The sheer number of students who by Pennsylvania public health recommendation would now upon arrival — or based upon testing or high-risk exposure — need to go into a two-week quarantine is untenable," the statement continued.

The statement also urged students to stay home for the sake of public health: "For the safety of students and the broader community, we are encouraging all other students not to return to Philadelphia."

The UPenn also sent a note early on Tuesday afternoon reiterating the same message of warning to its student body, which was viewed by Business Insider. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

New coronavirus cases have been trending upward in Pennsylvania in recent weeks

The news from the University of Pennsylvania comes as the outbreak of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania has continued through August. The spread of the virus has generally accelerated through the summer months, with just 356 new Pennsylvania cases recorded on June 1, 636 on July 1, and 888 cases reported on August 1, according to the state's department of health.

See more: College students don't want to return in the fall, and it could cause many universities to collapse

In a statement on Tuesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine called on Pennsylvanians to practice public health measures to combat the spread of the disease.

"The mitigation efforts in place now are essential as the new school year approaches and we work to ensure our children can get back to learning," she said. "Wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings and telework will help keep our case counts low."

The University of Pennsylvania isn't the only Ivy League school to remain closed this fall — or consider what that means for tuition

Throughout the spring semester, students at higher education institutions nationwide that were unimpressed by online learning called on their schools to reduce tuition fees. In its Tuesday statement, the University of Pennsylvania announced that it would roll back tuition to last year's rate, dropping students' tuition fees by 3.9%, and lowering its "general fee," which funds the schools non-instructional student support services, by 10%.

The baseline cost for attending the University of Pennsylvania is $53,166.

"Housing and dining fees that have been paid by students will be credited or refunded in full," the school's statement added, "consistent with the methodology used in the spring." Most other Ivy League universities also waived room and board where applicable, but many did not alter tuition.

See also: University of Virginia's business school is letting some MBA candidates skip the GMAT. Its head of admissions explains who can ditch the test and how they're evaluating applicants without test scores.

Harvard University announced in July that it would conduct classes remotely, but allow 40% of undergraduates — including freshmen and students without a suitable home learning environment — onto campus for the fall semester. Its tuition is remaining the same.

Princeton University, similarly to the University of Pennsylvania, just rolled back its plans for a hybrid semester with students on campus. It had also previously announced a 10% tuition cut.

"In brief, the pandemic's impact in New Jersey has led us to conclude that we cannot provide a genuinely meaningful on-campus experience for our undergraduate students this fall in a manner that is respectful of public health concerns and consistent with state regulations," Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber wrote in a message shared to the university's website.

Meanwhile, another Ivy League institution, Cornell, conducted a survey and found that most students would return to Ithaca, N.Y., even if campus remained closed — and decided that reopening, however "counterintuitive," would better protect students and the broader community. Cornell's tuition will maintain the 3.6% rise it announced in March.

Read more:

5 photos from schools that have reopened show a disaster in the making

Colleges are reopening with an asterisk — they're deciding how many coronavirus cases would shut them down again

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