Thousands stay in residence halls as University of Iowa shifts online

'That's approximately 45 percent of our (residence hall) population'

The University of Iowa residence building Burge Hall is shown in Iowa City. Although the UI has moved classes online til
The University of Iowa residence building Burge Hall is shown in Iowa City. Although the UI has moved classes online till the end of the semester on Dec. 18, thousands of students remain in residence halls. The UI on Monday reported 2,053 students have said they “plan to remain in university housing during the virtual instruction period.” (File photo/The Gazette)

Thousands of students remain in residence halls across Iowa’s three public universities even though Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa last week wrapped up their fall semesters early due to COVID-19 and the University of Iowa has moved classes online for the rest of the term.

The UI, which ends its fall semester Dec. 18, on Monday reported 2,053 residence hall students say they “plan to remain in university housing during the virtual instruction period.”

“For context, that’s approximately 45 percent of our (residence hall) population,” according to UI spokeswoman Hayley Bruce.

The UI’s goal of moving courses online after Thanksgiving was to discourage a return to campus after high-risk holiday travel. ISU and UNI addressed that concern by starting and ending their semesters early.

All three of Iowa’s public universities are keeping on-campus housing open through the extended winter break, during which each is offering courses for students looking to make up for lost time or get ahead before the spring semester’s later-than-usual start Jan. 25.

The universities also are keeping dining facilities running this winter and maintaining space in their halls for students needing to isolate or quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 or coming into close contact with someone who has it.

ISU, which ended its fall semester Wednesday and graduated 2,171 students over the weekend, on Monday reported 12 students with COVID-19 are using residence hall rooms to isolate and another five who were exposed are quarantining.


UNI, after also ending its fall semester Wednesday, reported 24 students in dorm room quarantine and seven in isolation.

UI is reporting just one residence hall student in quarantine and two in isolation.

UNI, which has been under its residence hall capacity of 3,770, typically sees 10 to 15 percent of its dorm students stay in its halls over break, according to spokesman Steve Schmadeke.

“This year is no exception,” he said.

ISU is keeping its halls open for the full break, but requiring those wanting to stay between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6 to sign up by Dec. 19.

“Sign up is only required during this time frame, and for residence halls that generally close over break,” ISU spokeswoman Angie Hunt said.

UI students must apply for winter housing — with deadlines dependent on when a student wants to be there.

A vast majority of the winter courses will occur online across the three universities, but dates of the sessions vary for each campus. ISU’s winter session spans Dec. 14 to Jan. 21; UI’s winter session runs from Dec. 28 to Jan. 22; and UNI is offering three winter options, the latest of which ends Jan. 22.

All three universities are beginning the spring semester Jan. 25 and canceling spring break. But semester end dates vary, with ISU’s term closing May 6; UNI’s on May 7; and UI’s on May 14.

The spring semester will be offered in similar hybrid fashion as the fall — with the campuses juggling c demands from some students for in-person experiences against others urging the more cautious approach of virtual learning.


All three campuses reported new COVID numbers Monday, with ISU’s report plummeting from the hundreds it had been adding weekly. Between Nov. 23 and 29, 57 ISU students, faculty and staff tested positive — bringing the campus total to 2,988, including mandatory move-in testing earlier this fall.

Of the 1,007 ISU students, faculty and staff in quarantine between Nov. 16 and 29, 249 — or about a quarter — ended up testing positive.

UNI for the last week reported 29 more positives identified through its Student Health Center. UI — which reports new cases every Monday, Wednesday and Friday — reported another 19 cases Monday, bringing its semester total since Aug. 18 to 2,965.

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