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Everything We Know About Columbia’s Reopening Plan (As Of 7/28/2020)

Information about CU’s reopening has been slow in coming to the student body. Various Bwog staffers have attended webinars on reopening and sought out other resources to compile an up-to-date, updating list of what we know and what questions we have regarding the upcoming academic year.


  • Campus capacity has been reduced to 60%.
  • All residential students will be living in singles. Housing assignments chosen during room selection have been canceled.
  • First-years and sophomores have been invited to campus in Fall 2020, and juniors and seniors invited back in Spring 2021 (housing for first-years and sophomores will be extended depending on the current status of the virus). Students were previously given an opportunity to apply for exceptions given their personal circumstances; those decisions were already sent to students.
  • Move-in/Check-out
    • Room assignment and move-in date will be announced by August 7th for CC/SEAS.
    • Room assignments will be announced the week of August 3rd for Barnard.
    • Columbia students’ move-in will be staggered from August 31 to September 4th. Only a few floors of each building will be moved in on a given day.
    • If you come from a “hot spot” as determined by New York State, you will be asked to quarantine for 14 days upon return to campus. The mechanics of this are still being worked out. Columbia is working with state officials to determine whether testing will allow this requirement to be waived.
      • Meals will be delivered to residential students who are quarantining.
      • Guides will be available on “how to quarantine” for those living off-campus.
    • You will be able to sign-in one helper to help you move in. The details of this are still being worked out; this helper might have to be signed up ahead of time. If you are coming from a “hot spot,” you will not be able to bring a helper.
    • Columbia first-years and sophomores will move out at the Thanksgiving break by Wednesday, November 25 at 12 pm.
    • Juniors and seniors will be moved in the week of January 4th and will check out by 12 pm on April 27, 2021, with the exception of seniors. Seniors will be expected to move out in the 24 hours following their school’s and the University’s commencement.
    • Barnard: Students traveling outside the tri-state area for Thanksgiving will need to check out of their residence halls at that time and finish the semester remotely; these students will be eligible for a prorated credit for room and board, adjusted for financial aid.
  • Student Spaces
    • Lounges will have limited capacity.
    • Outdoor space will be used as a common space. Outdoor interaction and events will be promoted.
    • Some indoor spaces such as conference rooms may be turned into social spaces.
    • The libraries will be opened in a limited capacity. More details will be forthcoming.
    • As of right now, Dodge Gym is closed (to comply with NY regulations).
  • Residential students will only have swipe access to the dorm in which they live. They will not be able to sign in guests.
  • Dining
    • As of now, everything is grab-and-go, but Columbia may need to implement a delivery system if there are changes in New York State guidelines. Meals will be delivered to students in quarantine and isolation.
    • Students living off-campus can still participate in a meal plan.
  • Center for Career Education (CCE)
    • All career services appointments will be virtual regardless of whether or not a student is on campus.
    • There will still be campus recruiting, done virtually, and will be industry themed.
    • There will be a 2-day long virtual career fair in September.
    • There will also be “industry-themed micro-career fairs” throughout the Fall, “networking from home” events to connect alumni and students and practice interview nights.


  • The academic year will be broken up into three semesters: Fall, Spring, and Summer.
    • Each of these semesters will be broken up into Part A and Part B. “Immersive” courses will be taught over these half semesters. There will be a mix of full and half-semester courses, with most A/B courses being taught at Barnard.
  • Registration will begin on August 3; the university is attempting to convince professors to teach in-person classes, despite the risks.
  • Students who are enrolled in the Fall and Spring semesters will be allowed to take Summer courses without any additional tuition fees (This includes graduating seniors.)
  • CC/SEAS/GS students can acquire up to 40 credits in these three semesters. This is 4 credits higher than the current CC policy but 2 credits lower than the current SEAS cap. Students will still be able to petition the credit limit.
  • Barnard students can acquire up to 45 credits.
  • Some classes will be all-online, some in-person, and some hybrid.
    • In-person classes will mostly be classes that have an in-person component, such as labs, or small classes (ex. language classes). 6-ft social distancing will be observed.
    • Hybrid classes will be a mix of online and in-person. What is done online and what is done in-person is at the discretion of the instructor.
  • There will be normal A/B/C/D/F grading
    • Professors will likely be reworking syllabi so that there is more weight placed on shorter assignments rather than exams, but that is up to the professors themselves.
  • Study Abroad
    • Study abroad has been canceled for Fall 2020 but the Office of Global Programs is currently working with students in anticipation of resuming study abroad in Spring 2021, provided the travel ban is lifted and it’s presumed to be safe to do so.
  • Degree Conferral (applicable to seniors)
    • You can get a diploma dated in May (if you finish your degree in Spring 2021), June (if you end in Summer A), or October (if you end in Summer B). 
    • Those taking summer classes will still be able to participate in Spring 2021 Commencement, but will receive their degree upon conferral.

Tuition and Financial Aid

  • CC/SEAS Tuition and Fees
    • Tuition: $30,049 / semester
      • In 2019, tuition was $29,460/semester
    • Housing: varies
      • First-years (full-year): $9,220
      • Upperclassmen (full-year): $10, 168
      • First-years (Fall only): $4,610
      • Sophomores (Fall only): $3,579
      • Juniors/Seniors (Spring only): $4,738
    • Student Life Fee: varies
      • On-Campus students (Fall): $654
      • Remote students (Fall Term): $501
      • [All] Students registered (Spring): $908
    • Orientation Fee (for incoming students): $485
    • Health and Related Services Fee (for full-time, residential students): $610 / semester
    • Rates for Columbia Health Insurance and other fees vary or are less universally applicable. More information can be found on the Student Financial Services website.
  • GS Tuition and Fees (Undergraduate Degree)
    • Tuition (students registered for 17+ credits): $32,878/semester 
    • Tution (students registered for < 17 credits):  $1,934/credit 
      • In 2019, tuition for students with 17+ credits was $32,232/semester and tuition for students with fewer than 17 credits was $1,896/semester
    • Student Life Fee: varies
      • On-Campus students (Fall): $474
      • Remote students (Fall Term): $403
      • [All] Students registered (Spring): $728
    • Orientation Fee (for incoming undergraduate students): $400
    • Health and Related Services Fee (for full-time, residential students): $610/semester
    • Information for GS Postbacch students and other fees can be found on the SFS website.
  • Barnard Tuition and Fees
    • No increase over 2019-2020 school year, including tuition, fees, room, and meal plans
    • $55,781 per year ($27,890.50 per semester)
      • This cost includes Summer 2021 semester — students will not be charged for classes taken then.
    • Comprehensive fee: $1,887 per year ($943.50 per semester)
    • Student Health Insurance: $3,385 for the academic year:
      • $1,332 fall 2020 semester coverage (8/22/20 – 1/11/21)
      • $2,053 spring + summer 2021 semester coverage (1/12/21 – 8/21/21)
      • The deadline for a waiver is August 28, but the first payment is due on August 14 so it’s suggested to submit a waiver by that date.
    • “Other Fees” available here
  • Work-study positions will be available. As usual, you will need to apply for them but Student Financial Services is working to ensure that jobs are posted and work-study positions are flexible.
  • The earning expectation will be modified for students unable to live on campus.
  • The summer earnings expectation will still be included in 2020-2021 financial aid packages for Columbia students. Columbia created a one-time grant that one could apply for, but the deadline to submit that application was June 24, 2020. No late applications will be accepted due to limited funding available.
  • Barnard has created a grant for all students on financial aid to cover the summer earnings expectation. It will be automatically applied to a students’ account.


  • Testing
    • Everyone will be “gateway tested” upon their return to campus. For residential students, this most likely on the day you move in. If you are living off-campus, this will occur after your return to the city.
    • Those who are already in the city and have been participating in Columbia’s testing regime will still be gateway tested at the start of Fall 2020.
    • People that live in dorms will be regularly tested at a set interval – this is currently set to be once a week but could increase or decrease, depending on how the campus is doing.
    • All undergraduates, whether they live on or off-campus will be tested with the same frequency, due to how often these two populations will likely mix with one another.
    • Graduate students that do not live in dorms will be tested in a randomized manner. About 5% of the on-campus population will be tested every two weeks.
    • If you have symptoms, you will be tested in John Jay Health Center, as opposed to the other (unannounced) testing locations.
    • Columbia will be using “self-collected observed nasal swabs” for testing. These aren’t the kind that reaches all the way to the back of your nasal passage but allows the person being tested to collect a sample from closer to the front under the supervision of a physician.
    • Columbia will absorb the cost of this testing program; there will not be a financial burden placed on students.
  • Prevention
    • Columbia created an anonymous contact tracing system that will be used throughout the university.
    • Every person on campus must sign the Columbia Community Health Compact. Those who are asked to comply with the compact and refuse (for example, by not wearing a mask or not maintaining proper social distance) will be asked to leave campus.
    • You must wear a face mask, covering mouth and nose, unless you’re alone in a private room with the door closed or while eating.
    • You will receive two Columbia face coverings that are reusable and washable.
    • Outside of clinical settings, there are no specific standards for the type of face-covering you use, as long as it covers your mouth and nose.
    • You will be asked to download the Reopen CU app where you verify whether you have or don’t have symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, have tested negative, and haven’t recently been in contact with anybody who has tested positive, you get a green pass, which allows you access into campus buildings. If not, you get a red pass, which requires further action on your part depending on what the issue is.
    • Facilities have increased disease prevention measures, such as more hand sanitizer stations, frequent disinfection, and improved ventilation and filtration of buildings. 
    • Signage has increased to encourage social distancing and mask-wearing. This includes directional signs on walls and floors in high-density areas (walkways, dining halls) and capacity signs in classrooms, among others.
    • There is reduced elevator capacity.
  • Isolation 
    • This refers to students who have been diagnosed with a case of COVID-19. Quarantine refers to when students who are coming from hot spots or who are believed to have been exposed are asked to stay at home for 2 weeks. Quarantine will occur in a student’s personal room/suite if possible.
    • Columbia students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will be moved into isolation in McBain Hall.
    • Meals will be delivered by Columbia staff and CPS will check in with those in isolation daily via telehealth sessions.

Student Life

  • Barnard NSOP will be a mix of in-person and online programming.
  • Columbia NSOP will be entirely virtual.
  • The “Columbia Welcome” events held during the first few weeks of classes will take place in “all sorts of virtual settings”
  • There will be a virtual activity fair in the beginning of the fall; it’s unclear if clubs not recognized under a Columbia/Barnard governing board will be able to participate, as in the past, unrecognized groups could not sign up for table space at the activity fair. Often, they either took over unclaimed tables or simply set up their own stations at the event.
  • No public transportation will be taken as part of Columbia programs.
  • Public Safety will hold a lesson on “street smarts.”

What We Still Don’t Know

  • Will the swim test requirement once again be waived for graduating seniors?
  • When will the updated bulletin for classes be posted?
  • Will student groups be able to host events?
  • Will club sports still be able to meet/practice in the fall?
  • Lerner’s hours
  • How will clubs be able to operate? Will they be able to operate at all on campus?
  • The status SIC communities and brownstones
  • Access to lab facilities by undergraduates
  • Barnard’s move-in details


  • 7/28/2020, 3:26 pm – Added the cost of Columbia Housing for 2020-2021

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  • @Done says:

    @@Done It’s all great but don’t understand why anyone would still come to the city for their education, unless of course the decision was made prior to all this. This city is on the brink of collapsing and it’s no longer safe to travel freely. The “inmates are running the asylum” and the police department has been hampered in their efforts to effectively fight crime. The mayor is a joke and is in denial. Liberals and conservatives are fleeing the city in records numbers which will decrease the tax base. Homeless tent cities have been set in the parks and nothing will be done about it. Just sayin…. Why come here??

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous >You must wear a face mask, covering mouth and nose, unless you’re alone in a private room with the door closed or while eating.
    Does this include the shower if someone walks into the communal bathroom?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous What about while fucking?

      Reply moderated
      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous If you wear a condom, you can wear a mask. This is not a laughing matter.

        1. OK CNN says:

          @OK CNN How does one suck a dick with a mask on?

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous glory hole

        2. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous haha is this a joke?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I really don’t understand all the fearmongering. like many out there, I was afraid of the virus, and then I found out I already had it a couple of months ago. I didn’t even know I had it until I got an antibody test. The symptoms I had — sniffles and a slight cough for a few days — were so mild that I confused them for seasonal allergies. And I would chalk this up to being “anecdotal” or being lucky, if it weren’t for the fact that everyone I know under 80 who has tested positive for the virus has had a similarly mild experience. As for people over 80, I know of two people who died. Both were in nursing homes, were overweight, lifetime smokers, and over 85. All of the propaganda we hear day in and day out from the media is completely unjustified and overblown. Now there are reports about “longterm effects”. That’s BS. This weekend, I ran a 5:45 mile (new PR) and am having zero issues. Start thinking for yourselves and stop letting others do it for you.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Why all the downvotes for this comment? OP is only sharing their personal experiences and that of a significant number of their friends. It’s sad that there are so many people who vehemently believe only a single Covid experience exists. Based on the 99.5% survival rate, it seems that that OP’s experience is overwhelmingly the norm.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Your figures are inaccurate. It has a 20% hospitalization rate , a 10% ventilator rate, and a 5 % death rate. Sorry, I don’t want those odds.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous False. See (Table 1 showing a 0.5% Infection Fatality Ratio, Overall). You are either lying to support your position, or your position is based on misinformation. I’m going to assume it’s the latter. Now that you’re educated, you can stop blindly falling for media hysterics.

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous You think one out every two hundred people infected dying is a reasonable figure? That does not include all the people maimed or on ventilators. That means every college will have a number of deaths every semester. Are you ok with that?

            1. Anonymous says:

              @Anonymous >That means every college will have a number of deaths every semester.
              Wrong. The IFR cited is not uniform across all age groups. When broken out by age, the IFR for those under 30 is virtually zero. Per the CDC, there have been fewer than 200 deaths nationwide in college-aged kids since the pandemic began (See About the same number have succumbed to influenza or bacterial pneumonia unrelated to Covid. It’s literally a cold. Answering your question:
              >Are you okay with that?

    2. anonymous says:

      @anonymous haha this is funny bc the giant city hospital i work at literally had so many covid patients on vents at one point that we needed to use the ORs, recovery rooms, and PACUs for space and we were STILL overloaded. many would (and do) describe it as a warzone. so i guess that wasn’t necessary, if it’s just some sniffles? boy did they have us fooled!!! so glad people like you are out there to give us the truth, we wouldn’t know it was a hoax otherwise!

      let me propose an analogy: in a certain field, there are rocks that fall from the sky. because of some reason or another you have to take a walk through the field, and only get skimmed by one rock on the elbow. that hurts a little, but it’s fine. meanwhile, someone also walking through the rock field gets struck in the head, dies. other people get hit in variously damaging ways, some people don’t get hit at all. would you then go back to town and tell everyone the rock field isn’t dangerous? that they shouldn’t avoid the rock field at all costs? what i mean to say is that it’s truly wonderful you didn’t have any long-term corona issues, but your experiences are not universal. sure, mostly older people die of this disease, but it doesn’t mean that young people can’t die from it, or that they can’t asymptomatically spread it to older people (and last i checked, there are a lot of older people in nyc). if that last point doesn’t bother you, then i ask, why should older people’s lives matter less than yours? ms. rand, is that you?

      some further reading:

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous You mean Cuomo’s nursing home patients. All well into their 80s or morbidly obese. Also hospitals in the suburbs and rural New York were so underutilized that Covid patients were transported to city hospitals while doctors in the former hospitals were furloughed. At least you and your friends got to make tiktok videos.

        1. anonymous says:

          @anonymous um go off i guess but nursing home patients were absolutely not the majority of the 100s of people that came through our doors (and didn’t come out) this past spring. did those suburban and rural hospitals have the equipment needed to treat those patients? also yeah ur right, shame on healthcare workers for deriving any sort of joy during a time of immense stress. doctors and nurses should live lives of perpetual suffering and then kill themselves from the pain.

  • same alum says:

    @same alum sorry for the double post. but living and studying under these rules sounds extremely oppressive. and half remote, full tuition is laughable. why not just take a year off? serious question

    1. same alum says:

      @same alum get a temp fed job somewhere, just apply to 1000 places and take whatever you get… go on a roadtrip… rent a cabin in montana, switch to a flip phone, and actually read a book. do anything. literally anything and your parents would still be ahead $50K less $300/mo cabin rent or whatever.

      1. same alum says:

        @same alum not bougie tech montana btw

    2. rising soph says:

      @rising soph They take away your housing if you take a year off. For anyone on financial aid/anyone who doesn’t make a lot of money, the cost of living in NYC is way way too high for us to risk losing our housing.

  • alum says:

    @alum they shouldn’t cancel the swim test

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Columbia’s tuition allows students to take classes in any or all of the three semesters, meaning you can also take classes next summer included in your tuition at no extra cost.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Under Academics: “Students who are enrolled in the Fall and Spring semesters will be allowed to take Summer courses without any additional tuition fees (This includes graduating seniors.)”

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Not sure how relevant this is, but at the seas town hall they indicated that mcbain would be used as the isolation dorm for students who test positive.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous “Columbia students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 will be moved into isolation in McBain Hall.” under “Isolation”

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I think this is the cost of housing for this year:

    1. Isabel Sepúlveda says:

      @Isabel Sepúlveda Thank you so much! I’ll be updating the post to add this information,

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