How COVID-19 is changing the college experience at north country schools

WWNY How COVID-19 is changing the college experience at north country schools

POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY) - COVID-19 is changing the college experience. We’re learning that hundreds of students enrolled at north country schools won’t be arriving on campus this fall.

SUNY Potsdam tells 7 News enrollment is down 12 percent and 500 fewer students will be living on campus this year compared to last year. The school says those students have opted to learn online.

At St. Lawrence University, officials are creating a new three-semester system. Students will choose 2 of the 3 - fall, spring or summer. That means this fall, the campus will see 400 fewer students moving in next week.

For those college students who are returning, there will be plenty of rules and policies to follow.

Officials are saying safeguards will start with testing.

“When students arrive on campus, they’re going to be tested as to the virus...100 percent. All commuters, all resident students are going to be tested,” said Zvi Szafran, SUNY Canton president.

It will be the same at SUNY Potsdam, where they are about to set up tents for the mass testing. Both schools will then restrict those students.

“Until we find, which should be about 24 to 48 hours, that they are free of the virus, we’ll be asking them to self-quarantine,” said Szafran.

At Clarkson and St. Lawrence universities, students will have to get tested before arriving on campus and, once there, they’ll be tested again later.

All of these colleges’ plans have caveats and contingencies. That’s because the pandemic has taken unexpected turns all through the spring and summer and nobody can be sure what’s next.

Masks will be required in classrooms. Desks are spaced. Quarantine dorms are being set up. But some students say they wouldn’t feel safe on campus no matter what the rules.

“What I did is I got all my classes moved online. I kind of moved off campus … I don’t plan on going to campus basically for anything. I have everything I need in my apartment,” said Jeffrey Gentile, Clarkson University senior.

Still, thousands of students will begin moving in to dorms in the next two weeks. Clarkson is first up with first-year student move-in beginning Sunday.

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