University of Maryland to hold ‘about 20%' of undergraduate courses partially in-person, keep larger classes online

In an email to students Tuesday, the University of Maryland, College Park said it plans to hold “about 20%” of undergraduate courses at least partially in-person for the fall semester due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, the university’s senior vice president and provost, said all courses of more than 50 students would be delivered online due to social distancing limits and that priority for in-person courses would be given to some labs, performance courses, senior capstone projects, clinical instruction and internships.


A fully updated course schedule for the fall semester is expected to be available for students July 15.

The fall semester will begin Aug. 31 as scheduled, and the state flagship university hopes to finish classes Dec. 14 without disruption. Thanksgiving break is expected to be held as scheduled from Nov. 25 to Nov. 29, but the university is directing faculty members teaching in-person to prepare to shift their classes online in case of a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall.


In case all classes are moved online again, all semester final exams would be conducted remotely. Students also would not be expected to return to campus after Thanksgiving, though residence halls may remain open if health conditions permit.

Several universities across the country have adjusted their semester calendars to account for a suspected second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing students to finish the semester before Thanksgiving and return home.

Students confirmed to live in College Park residence halls can cancel their housing agreements without penalty through July 17.

Several health precautions also will be implemented. They include providing sanitary wipes in all classrooms, requiring social distancing and wearing of masks in campus buildings, and posting signs to direct one-way traffic in buildings.

The university previously announced that it would hold a hybrid of in-person and online courses in the fall. The school also announced various safety details to track and contain the coronavirus on campus, such as checking temperatures daily, requiring testing for anyone with a fever or symptoms, and tracking virus levels in campus wastewater.

Gabrielle Christopher, a rising senior, is critical of the university’s plans for the fall, expressing worry that the coronavirus will quickly spread through in-person classes and shared dorms. The university plans to set aside residential spaces for isolation and quarantine — as well as convert triple and quadruple rooms to doubles, and turn floor lounges into singles and doubles to minimize large gatherings.

Christopher, who plans to live in an off-campus apartment, also noted that students will be free to roam to bars and parties in large congregations, allowing for easy spread of the virus. While hospitalizations and daily death tolls have decreased in Maryland in recent weeks, a younger demographic of people have begun to contract COVID-19 at greater rates.

“UMD is such a huge school and I think that COVID is going to spread rapidly once the semester starts,” said Christopher, an information systems and government and politics double major.


Hunter Petit, a rising junior, agreed with Christopher about the likelihood of students to skirt social distancing guidelines. Petit said he is happy to return to campus after the coronavirus moved courses online in mid-March and added he was hopeful the school would be successful at testing and contact tracing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Both students expressed disappointment the school did not lower tuition as a result of its plan to hold a vast number of classes online again. The University System of Maryland in June announced that it would freeze tuition, room and board for the coming year.

In an interview with NPR in June, new university president Darryll Pines was asked whether the school planned to reduce prices.

“In the spring, we had some challenges going immediately — within one week — to online,” Pines said. “It probably wasn’t the smoothest of transitions, but now we’ve had time to sort of rethink through how we would enhance the delivery of that education to our students. So I think the students will get a really high-quality experience that will, you know, not have these questions of tuition coming up.

When pressed again about a potential cut, Pines responded, “Well, we are saying that we’re paying the same faculty to deliver the same kinds of experiences that they would get whether we’re in-person or online.”

Petit, an information systems and government and politics double major like Christopher, said he understands the university’s decision to not lower prices, given the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But the Hyattsville resident is concerned for students who might have to pay out-of-state tuition, only to receive a lower quality of education.


“We saw this when we transitioned online when the first wave of COVID-19 hit. The quality of education for online courses is not up to par with the quality you would receive in an in-person class,” Petit said.