The University of Virginia says it will not be able to say how many students are returning to Grounds this year, or where they’re coming from, until sometime in September — after the students are here.

The university will conduct a survey of students after classes begin. The results of that survey may be available by the end of September, said Brian Coy, a university spokesman.

“As you can imagine, it’s hard to determine exactly where people are (especially if they live off-Grounds) until they actually begin showing up for classes,” Coy said in an email.

There were roughly 25,000 students in the fall semester of 2019, according to the university’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions. As of May, there were 7,500 beds available in university housing areas scattered around Grounds, according to a UVA Housing and Residence Life map

It’s unclear if a similar number of students will return this year. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the university is giving its students the choice of returning for classes as usual or staying in their home communities and taking all their courses online.

The university this week extended the deadline for students to withdraw from their on-Grounds housing contracts from Aug. 4 to Aug. 24. 

“I would not expect that we would have any data to share on that day as it will take some time to process it and develop an understanding of what it means,” Coy said.

Many in the Charlottesville area, including community leaders, have expressed concern about UVA’s decision to allow students back for in person learning.

“I, for one, do not understand why the students are coming back into the community from all over the globe and why we would take that chance,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said at a press conference on July 13. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Of the university’s 25,000 students last fall, about 17,000 were undergraduates and 8,000 graduate students. About one-third of the incoming freshmen in 2019 were from out of state. It’s unclear where the out-of-state or international students came from.

“It’s worth noting that any student who returns to Grounds, no matter where they are from, will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test to the university before returning, and they are strongly encouraged to quarantine for 14 days before returning,” Coy said. “Once here, they will be expected to comply with university policies regarding the wearing of masks, physical distancing and limits on social gatherings.”

The university announced this week it would delay the start of the fall semester two weeks, putting the start date at Sept. 8. The decision was a response to an “uptick in local and national coronavirus cases.”

“In response to these conditions, and based on the advice of UVa public health experts, we have decided to adopt a phased approach to the fall semester, which we believe will best safeguard the health and safety of our University community and our Charlottesville neighbors and give us the best chance of a successful return to grounds,” the university wrote in a letter to students, faculty and staff Tuesday. “We still plan to welcome all students back to Grounds, but out of caution, we will do it a bit more slowly than originally intended.”


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