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Dickinson College reverses course, will have remote fall semester
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Dickinson College reverses course, will have remote fall semester


Dickinson College President Margee Ensign on Wednesday announced that the college will have remote classes in the fall instead of the previously announced plan to bring students back to the Carlisle campus.

The decision comes only a day after the Trump administration dropped its rule preventing international students from staying in the country if their colleges or universities offered only online classes. Ensign said the recent decision was also affected by how the pandemic has changed since the college’s announcement back in early June.

“In early June, when we announced our decision to bring students back, COVID-19 cases were on the decline across the country, and we expected that testing would be widely available, with results provided in a timely manner,” Ensign wrote in a letter to the college community posted online. “This unprecedented situation has changed significantly since that decision. Both COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing nationwide, and there is ample evidence to suggest that the pandemic is not subsiding.”

Ensign said that in early June, they were told by testing companies that they would receive test results in about two days, and the college had planned to test all students, staff and faculty upon their return to campus to provide a baseline on the coronavirus to prevent the spread to the larger Carlisle community. However, she said that the lag time has increased to five to seven days with a further increase likely, according to testing company representatives.

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Ensign said they had planned to isolate anyone who showed symptoms, even before a positive test came back, which would have involved many in the college community to remain isolated for a week or more as they waited for the results.

Because of the challenges and how it would have affected campus life for students, Ensign said they made the decision to move to remote learning.

The college will allow for a small number of students to come back to campus if they meet certain qualifying needs, such as international students who need to return, students who need to work on special academic projects that cannot be postponed or worked on remotely, student workers who perform essential functions and students with basic needs that are not met at home, such as secure housing, food, internet or computer access.

In the new remote plan, classes will begin Aug. 17 and faculty have already been preparing and designing their courses with the idea that remote teaching could be an option, Ensign said.

The college will also hold tuition steady for the fall semester instead of raising it by the planned 3.9%, as well as waive fall student activity fees.

“We made this decision even though we have had to incur increased costs to allow us to respond to this crisis and to provide a strong remote experience,” Ensign said. “The fall academic experience, while different, will feature the same expert faculty and the same small class sizes, and it will contribute credit to the same Dickinson degree.”

Email Naomi Creason at or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason

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