Aug 19, 2021 - COVID

NWA colleges adopt disparate pandemic policies as students return

photo of Old Main at U of A campus

Old Main on campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Photo: Lance King/Replay Photos via Getty Images

The K–12 kiddos are already back at school. Next week it's college students' turn.

University of Arkansas

What's happening: Students, faculty, and staff must wear masks on campus, but the university has pulled back on two pandemic policies.

  • Students will no longer be guaranteed the option of online learning. Faculty teaching in-person classes may allow students an online option on a case-by-case basis, but the classes must be taught in person, U of A spokesperson John Thomas tells Axios.
  • U of A is also returning to its usual requirement that freshmen live on campus, with few exceptions, Thomas says.

What it means: College dorms are basically the exact opposite of social distancing — and one of the few places on campus where masks will not be required.

  • Last school year, the university allowed first-year students to cite COVID-19 as a reason for living off campus. Not anymore.
  • Freshmen can apply to live off-campus with U of A's standard exemption form, which clearly states they are unlikely to be approved unless they are living nearby with a parent or guardian.
  • And no, students cannot ask to live with a vaccinated roommate or refuse to live with a fellow student who isn't vaxxed. Thomas says the university does not ask students their vaccination status.

Of note: Vaccines are available to students, faculty and staff at the on-campus health clinic, Pat Walker Health Center. The university also has an incentive program to encourage vaccinations.

NorthWest Arkansas Community College

  • NWACC announced Wednesday that masks are now required for students, faculty and staff anywhere indoors on campus.
  • Classes will be offered in-person, hybrid, and online. "Students can choose which format that they feel most comfortable taking," Liz Kapsner, NWACC spokesperson, tells Axios.
  • Of note: The community college does not have on-campus housing.

1 missing thing: We don't know the vaccination rates of either U of A or NWACC. A spokesperson with the Arkansas Department of Health tells Axios the data is not available yet.


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