As the UNC community prepare for the fall semester to begin next month, one of the many questions is how many students will return to live on campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNC’s residence halls will be open at full capacity, according to WRAL. That puts the buildings in the ‘highest risk’ category for the spread of the coronavirus, based on the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for colleges and universities.
The CDC recently issued the public health guidance to aid higher education institutions in determining their models of operation for the upcoming school year. Congregate living settings at the highest risk of creating COVID-19 transmission are ones open “at full capacity,” included shared spaces like kitchens, laundry rooms and other common areas.
The university, however, have reported its housing numbers are decreasing. According to Carolina Housing Executive Director Allan Blattner, more than 2,100 students have notified UNC they will not be living on campus this academic year since May 1. The university does not track specific reasons why students cancel their housing contracts, but Carolina Housing is allowing students to cancel without penalty through August 2.
UNC has also shared ways it is altering the standard on-campus housing contract to ensure residents are aware of its public health requirements. Students are required to wear face coverings whenever they are outside their rooms, with intentional violations resulting in the potential revoking of a housing contract. The university also said “enhanced cleaning” has been done for all living facilities and residence hall visitation has been suspended until further notice.
Another difference this year is students living on campus have been required to move into residence halls by appointment only. General move-in for all students is August 3 through August 9, with each student signing up for a time frame to move in so UNC staff can maximize physical distancing efforts.
Housing fees from students in residence halls are a key source to university funding. At UNC, the yearly cost of living in an on-campus dorm ranges from $6,672 to $8,146 per student. With the university offering an entirely-remote program to some students, there are expectations the total amount of housing fees accrued by UNC this academic year will be lower than normal. University provost Bob Blouin told the UNC Faculty Executive Committee in June a 10 percent reduction in students living on campus could translate to an estimated $50-$75 million dip in funding.
Classes for UNC’s 2020-2021 academic year are set to begin Monday, August 10, the first time courses will be held in-person since March.