As the Kutztown University coronavirus outbreak has escalated, about 1,000 students have left campus, resulting in $3.5 million in lost revenue, officials said Sept. 17.
The majority of the students returned home to work remotely, said Matthew Santos, KU spokesman. Some students opted to wait until spring to possibly return.
All the students who left campus by Sept. 5 due to the coronavirus pandemic are being refunded for housing costs, he said.
On Thursday afternoon, Sept. 17, the Kutztown University Council of Trustees honored Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, president, and his team for excellent leadership during the pandemic.
Several borough residents and alumni criticized the university for remaining open during the pandemic.
The university reported a total of 269 coronavirus cases Sept. 17, including 113 students living on campus, 153 living off campus and three employees. Of those, 83 students and one employee have recovered.
The university also dropped its requirement for students to live on campus for two years if they live more than 30 miles outside Kutztown.
Housing costs range from $3,005 to $4,250 per semester for residential halls and suites with a meal plan included, and $3,490 to $4,720 for a campus apartment without a meal plan.
The university anticipates a reduction in operating costs for programs, supplies and utilities will offset the revenue drop, Santos said.
“While the pandemic has presented challenges, KU is fortunate to have a healthy financial balance, strong enrollment and good retention at this time, which will be reflected in our upcoming enrollment release,” Santos said.
The university had anticipated 3,500 students would be living on campus, Santos said.
On move-in day in August, a total of 3,300 students moved into campus. Since then, about 1,000 have returned home. KU doesn't know if any left off campus residences.
Santos said many of the students, with their parents, decided to study at home because classes were offered virtually.
The university does not have information available yet on the details for the spring semester, noting the class registration is several weeks away, Santos said.
He said the options should be available within the next several weeks.
This semester, most of the classes are online only, and 39% are a mixture of online and in person. About 5% of the classes are in-person only.
Students who develop symptoms are required to contact the Student Health and Wellness Center.
The university is working with the state Department of Health and the Co-County Wellness Center, 429 Walnut St., Reading, on contact tracing to determine who was in contact with the individuals who tested positive.
Barbara N. Waller, wellness center director, said the center is receiving regular reports from Kutztown students and employees who test positive.
The department refers cases to the agency, and the agency staffers notify everyone who was in contact with the infected individual to quarantine for 10 days.
“We’ve been seeing people from Kutztown University coming in routinely,” Waller said. “Today, we had about nine or 10. Some days there are a lot, and some days are quiet.”
Shortly after the school reopened, a private Facebook group, “Return to Campus-2020” was started by parents. The group primarily consists of parents sharing information about the pandemic situation on campus.
Deanne Solomon, a mother of a sophomore, said she picked up her daughter after learning all of her daughter’s classes were available online.
“It was more of a financial decision after all of her classes were available online,” Solomon said. “It became too much of a risk with her classes being online and spending all of that additional money for her to be sitting in her dorm room without being able to do face-to-face.”
Solomon said that the family overall is very happy with the university.
Denise Rodriguez, a mother of two students, Lea Rossanese, 20 and Elizabeth Rodriguez, 21, both juniors, said Kutztown is doing a great job maintaining protocols to keep the students safe.
She said her daughters are living in Advantage Point in off-campus housing.
Rodriguez said they don’t get a discount if the students leave early.
She said her daughters have computers set up in their individual rooms.
“The classes are going well,” she said. “If everyone does what they are supposed to do, I don’t see why the school should shut down.”
Rodriguez said the only issues are some students are going out and having large parties off campus.
“This is not the university’s fault,” she said. “The classes are not crowded. Only a handful of classes are in person. Being in school makes sense.”
Another mother, Adrienne Trafford, said she is trying to convince her daughter, who lives in an apartment, to return home.
She said her daughter enjoys studying with her roommates. She is also participating in a math study group on Zoom.
However, she said, her daughter is also surrounded by students who are partying and not wearing masks.
Trafford said she is looking for other options for her daughter in spring semester.