APPLETON, Wis.—As college students resume classes across Wisconsin, they come back during a staggering surge in COVID-19 cases. It leaves administrators within the higher education sector facing a slew of tough decisions. The most challenging issue surrounds virtual versus in-person learning.

Thus far, Spectrum News 1 has confirmed Marquette University, Edgewood College and Lawrence University are taking precautions. The first two will delay the second semester by about one week, from Jan. 18 to Jan. 24. Marquette University will also require booster shots for students this semester. 

Lawrence began winter trimester virtually, from Jan. 3 until at least Jan. 17.

“We gave students the option to return either January second and also the ninth, so we’ll have two phases of move-in,” said Megan Scott, Lawrence's vice president of marketing and communications. “It will allow us to do two tests of students returning this week and two tests for those returning next week.”

Senior Kelsi Bryant leads Lawrence University Community Council and works with leadership on decisions impacting the student body, such as virtual learning. Bryant said she’s glad her college opted to take these precautions.

“I’m very happy and very grateful to the school for making that decision,” Bryant said. “This time, deciding that the restrictions were going to be in place a little bit longer wasn’t as hard as past terms.”

UW System released a lengthy Twitter thread, detailing its plan for all campuses to be fully in-person to begin spring semester. The largest public higher education system in Wisconsin restated its testing protocols, which have been in place since 2020. 

“With an inventory of tests, we will continue to provide onsite testing moving forward into 2022,” the statement read. “We will continue our daily monitoring of COVID to ensure we can enact quick and effective measures to prevent further spread.”

“I think every institution is doing what they think is best for their own individual communities,” said Scott.

Scott said the plan is to move forward with in-person instruction on Jan. 17. She said the college understands the need to monitor for potential changes to that plan.