Columbia and Barnard cancel in-person classes for the fall

A COVID-19 related instructional 'attention' sign is seen on Columbia University's campus on August 6, 2020, in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Columbia University and Barnard College on Friday joined a growing list of schools that have backed off holding in-person classes in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The two New York City schools announced that all undergraduate classes will be conducted remotely. The Ivy League Columbia is drastically scaling back the number of students it will allow to live on campus, while Barnard will be shutting all its residence halls.

The presidents of both schools cited New York's 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers coming from more than 30 states with high coronavirus rates.

"A very large percentage of our residence hall population falls into this category," Columbia President Lee Bollinger said in a statement, referring to students who would be required to quarantine. 

"While I am supportive of the measures New York State has imposed," he said, "and while I have no doubt that we could ensure a safe quarantine period from a public health standpoint, two weeks is a long time to endure isolation, especially for students who will be leaving home for the first time. Conditions for all students in quarantine will be austere, to say the least."

Other Ivy League schools also have moved toward online instruction because of the pandemic.

Brown University in Rhode Island has delayed all in-person classes until October, with students starting the semester online. The University of Pennsylvania isn't opening dorms to the vast majority of undergraduate students this fall as it holds most undergraduate classes remotely. 

Yale and Harvard also will be conducting most classes online. Yale, however, is allowing many students to live on campus, while Harvard is permitting only a limited number of students on campus.

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Many other large colleges, including New York University, are allowing many students to return to campus, with a mixed offering of in-person and online classes.

Barnard President Sian Leah Beilock said the school does not have the facilities to accommodate the state's quarantine mandate.

"It has become clear that the state-mandated quarantine ... would put an unreasonable burden on many of our students and their families," she said in a message to the college community. "Although we have confidence in our plans to reopen campus, the current situation in the country and the resulting New York State mandates make an in-person start to the academic year untenable."