All but one University of Wisconsin System campus met a goal set earlier this year to offer at least 75% of classes in person this fall, UW System officials announced Tuesday.
Bringing students back into classrooms this fall is important, interim System President Tommy Thompson said, because so many students missed out last year when the pandemic moved most courses online.
All campuses, with the exception of UW-Madison, had enrollment declines for incoming sophomores and juniors, which Thompson attributed to the students feeling they didn’t receive the college experience they anticipated. He said he sent letters to each student who had indicated their plans to drop out, urging them to reconsider and promising a much better school year in 2021-22.
“We’re back to normal,” Thompson told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re moving forward. The professors are happy. The students are happy and I couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming school year.”
In a sign of just how happy students are to be back on campus, Thompson shared a conversation he had with UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank earlier in the day in which she noted that no demonstrations have taken place in the two weeks since school started, an almost unheard of length of time for the politically active campus.
The stakes in offering in-person classes amid the contagious delta variant of the coronavirus are high. While UW-Madison has a student vaccination rate approaching 92%, four of the other 12 campuses have rates at 50% or less.
Asked to reconcile some campuses’ low vaccination rates with the push to return to in-person learning, Thompson said some campus data may not reflect their true inoculation rate. That’s because students may not have uploaded their vaccination records correctly and schools are measuring their rates differently. Thompson expects eight to 10 campuses to reach the 70% vaccination goal he has set.
The return to primarily in-person classes comes after a year of mostly online learning. At UW-Madison, 64% of classes were delivered remotely in fall 2020 and 82% were offered online in spring 2021. The university is back to offering 93% of classes face-to-face this fall.
The percentage of undergraduate courses being taught face-to-face this fall include:
- UW-La Crosse: 94%
- UW-Madison: 93%
- UW-Platteville: 93%
- UW-Eau Claire: 87%
- UW-River Falls: 83%
- UW-Whitewater: 83%
- UW-Stevens Point: 82%
- UW Oshkosh: 82%
- UW-Milwaukee: 79%
- UW-Parkside: 79%
- UW-Green Bay: 78%
- UW-Stout: 75%
- UW-Superior: 65%
A large percentage of UW-Superior classes were offered online before the pandemic, Thompson said, which is why the campus offered a smaller share than some other schools this year. Every class at Superior that had been teaching in person, but went remote last year, is now back in person.
Systemwide, 80% of undergraduate courses are being delivered fully in person, he said. Another 5% are operating in a hybrid format with some face-to-face components and other portions online.
Thompson’s remarks to media on Tuesday were his first since undergoing surgery last Thursday because of a water-skiing accident.
“It was maybe not the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” the former four-term governor said with a sling on one of his arms.
Thompson, who turns 80 in November, said he grew up water skiing and wanted to show his grandchildren he could do it. He said he had always intended to ski into his 80s, plans to be back water skiing next summer and also wants to go snow skiing this winter.