Select colleges and universities in the Garden State are offering hope for normal operations come fall 2021, whatever that may mean in the face of a lingering coronavirus pandemic.

A year into the public health crisis, and as outgoing high school students make some crucial higher-education decisions, institution presidents are looking six months down the road, to a (ideally) mostly vaccinated adult population.

Rider University's president and provost say they are cautiously optimistic about the resumption of in-person teaching in the fall. Should that occur, academic courses would not be offered in hybrid or remote formats — but face masks and other safety measures may still need to be in place.

"Our online courses that were available online before the pandemic would also still be available online," said Kristine Brown, Rider's associate vice president of marketing and communications.

The university, located in Lawrence, is also preparing to welcome a greater number of residential students and on-campus activities. Brown said Rider has the ability to maintain spaces for residential living and quarantining.

Rutgers University plans to be "back at 100%, just not all at the same time." Rutgers launched the Spring 2021 semester with a letter from its president, which noted the New Brunswick institution intends to welcome everyone back in the fall. But students and faculty may have staggered schedules.

Stockton University tells New Jersey 101.5 that the Galloway-based school is planning a return to normal operations for Fall 2021, following state and federal guidelines.

"Stockton is celebrating its 50th year of teaching in 2021-22 and we look forward to having our faculty and students once again meeting together on campus," said Diane D'Amico, director of news and media relations.

A fully open Rowan University is anticipated by President Ali Houshmand. In a March 4 letter to the community, Houshmand said he expects classrooms, research labs, recreation facilities and residence halls "will be busy and full of activity once again" at the Glassboro campus.

Montclair State University tells New Jersey 101.5 that plans right now point to a full on-campus semester. "A fall semester that is primarily in person" is the hope at Seton Hall University in South Orange.

"We are creating a schedule that anticipates in-person classes and activities with a considerable number of faculty, staff and administrators on every campus," SHU President Joseph Nyre said in a March 4 letter. "And we are anticipating that our physical infrastructure (academic buildings, residence halls, dining, athletic and recreational facilities, and the University Center) will return to full or nearly full operation."

Gov. Phil Murphy has said that he plans to see all school buildings in the state open by the fall, if not sooner.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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