The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has left colleges and universities scrambling to keep students safe at home and abroad, but the effort could mean disruptions in attendance and enrollment that jeopardize the completion of students’ degrees.
With that in mind, the Education Department issued guidance Thursday providing schools with the flexibility to accommodate students whose studies are being upended by the outbreak. It takes into account scenarios playing out at a growing number of colleges, including the cancellation of study-abroad programs and temporary campus closures.
The coronavirus initially emerged as a problem for university officials overseas, who responded by recalling students from study-abroad programs or shutting down satellite campuses in China weeks into the semester. To help students continue their classes, the Education Department is allowing schools to temporarily expand their online learning programs or partner with other schools that can meet the demands, without requiring federal approval. Colleges can also offer courses to those students on a schedule that deviates from the standard term if necessary.