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Penn State Planning Return To Full In-Person Learning For Fall 2021 Semester

Penn State plans on fully returning to on-campus learning next fall, the university announced Wednesday afternoon.

To do so, it will begin a phased return to in-person instruction over the summer before the fall 2021 semester gets underway. Throughout that process, Penn State said it will prioritize the health and well-being of students, faculty, staffers, and local communities.

“Making detailed decisions now about the future mode of educational offerings for our University is not an easy task given all the unknowns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic,” President Eric Barron said. “However, with vaccines becoming more available and the expectation that public health guidelines will reflect progress, we are optimistic that we can begin to safely transition during the summer and move toward a full in-person experience this fall while doing all that we can to keep our students, employees and local communities as safe and healthy as possible.” 

The university said its planning remains flexible and would be subject to change in response to the coronavirus pandemic’s trajectory, “if necessary.”

Over the summer, Penn State will continue using flexible instruction modes but “maximize” the number of on-campus, in-person courses using a number of unorthodox measures, including non-traditional instruction spaces like event halls or outdoor tents. Those plans are subject to public health guidelines that develop in the coming months.

Additionally, Penn State will still provide remote courses, both synchronous and asynchronous, this summer. The fall semester will “more closely resemble” traditional semesters but still offer a “full range” of web-based classes.

“We are in the process of finalizing the summer and fall semester details but wanted to share this information now so that our students are able to register for their summer and fall courses, which we know is a critical step,” said Yvonne Gaudelius, interim vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. 

Despite its developing plans, Penn State reiterated it’s still preparing for “a variety of scenarios” that could prevent in-person learning from fully returning. The university said expanding in-person learning is subject to the latest health and safety guidelines, which could change by the time summer rolls around.

“We are fully prepared, as we have been in the past, to pivot in response to changing pandemic conditions; however, we are excited at the prospect of coming back together again, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing our vibrant community of students, faculty and staff fully engaged once again in on-campus life,” Barron said.

Penn State said it will provide more details about course registration and the fall semester “in the coming weeks.”

Earlier this month, Penn State said it plans to slowly expand student gatherings and activities this semester through several phases. Additionally, it’s “exploring options” for in-person commencement ceremonies in the spring.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a senior majoring in journalism and Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza and "Arrested Development" quotes. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ if you hate yourself or email Matt at if you hate him.


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