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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Universities that brought students back to campus have already seen a rough start to the fall, with more than 50,000 infections across the country. But some have seemingly cracked the code.

The big picture: A number of schools have managed to open up while quelling or even preventing outbreaks, either because they’re effectively testing and tracing or because they’ve got smaller student bodies and more rural locations.

While many bigger universities in cities decided to start off with remote learning, smaller campuses in smaller towns — like Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont — welcomed students with negative test results back, betting that the relative isolation could keep infections at bay.

  • So far, that seems to be working, says Joshua Salomon, a professor of medicine at Stanford.

Other campuses that have effectively navigated reopening include Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Ohio's Stark State College.

  • Wesleyan stands out because it is committed to giving students opportunities to safely hang out with one another — unlike many campuses, which are desperately attempting to stop socialization.
  • No infections have been traced back to Stark State since it opened for in-person classes months ago, ABC reports. Its success is partly due to the fact that it's a community college with 80% of students learning online already.

The catch: Some large universities are running aggressive testing campaigns, but they're still seeing high numbers of infections.

  • Experts have pointed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has been testing students twice a week, as an example of the right way to reopen. But the university has seen a sharp uptick in cases recently.
  • "What's happening at UIUC is emblematic of what's happening all over the country," Salomon says. "It's very hard to get people to isolate for 14 days."
  • To prevent infections from turning into outbreaks, he says, bigger colleges should make sure dorms are clean and comfortable and offer easy meal delivery so infected students don't see quarantine as a nuisance or a punishment.

The bottom line: These success stories show that reopening can work, but typically only at small, rural campuses. At the big universities, even the best-laid plans inevitably come apart.

Go deeper

Why one coding bootcamp is ditching income-sharing agreements

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Make School, one of the earlier “coding bootcamps” to use income-sharing agreements, has quietly pivoted to traditional college loans that it covers until graduates find well-paid software development jobs. This is cheaper for students (and itself), the school tells Axios.

Why it matters: In recent years, income-sharing agreements (ISAs) have been hailed by some as the key to fix the college debt crisis because they seemingly hold schools responsible for their graduates’ professional—and financial—success.

NYC schools will change admission requirements to address segregation

Bill De Blasio. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

New York City will change admission requirements in middle and high schools to address segregation issues which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced on Friday.

Why it matters: New York has one of the most segregated school systems, with students of color — particularly Black and Latino — underrepresented in selective schools.

Cuomo scandal snares Dems on #MeToo

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images   

The searing sexual harassment allegations made against Gov. Andrew Cuomo are trouble for Democrats far beyond Albany and New York.

Why it matters: They hammered Donald Trump after the "Access Hollywood" tape. Pilloried Brett Kavanaugh over Christine Blasey Ford. Defended President Biden when he was accused of inappropriate touching. Now, Democrats have to show whether they walk the "#MeToo" talk.