Northwestern to allow incoming students year-long deferrals, on-campus housing contract cancellations


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

The Weber Arch. On Thursday, Northwestern announced plans for an accelerator for research and entrepreneurship in Downtown Evanston.

Isabelle Sarraf, Campus Editor

In a Tuesday morning email, Northwestern administrators announced additional changes to Fall Quarter plans in response to student frustrations over Friday’s announcement to move first- and second-year undergraduate students online. 

Given student feedback, the University is now offering incoming new and transfer students the option to defer each quarter this year, effectively allowing them to defer up to the entire academic year. This would still guarantee students a spot in the 2021-22 academic year, the email said. 

The email also responded to student concern about housing insecurity, and announced that first- and second-year undergraduates who wish to cancel their housing contracts for the entire academic year can now do so without penalty. The deadline for upperclassmen to cancel their Fall Quarter on-campus housing contracts has also been extended.

“We know some were upset with the timing of our announcement – the fact that it was made just days before many of you had planned to move, and the fact that it came late in the day on a Friday,” the email read. “We agree the timing was far from ideal, but the pandemic has continually disrupted our best-laid plans.”

Friday’s email had announced a 10 percent reduction in tuition for Fall Quarter, but students who receive financial aid would not see a change in their expected family contribution. In Tuesday’s email, the University clarified that if a family’s circumstances change and its needs increase, the student receiving financial aid can re-file an application and lower the expected family contribution.

“If tuition goes up, the amount a family is asked to pay does not rise. If tuition goes down, the amount the family pays does not go down,” the email read.

Financial aid recipients are also eligible for emergency funds from the University for any new expenses related to travel or technology. Funds will be available beginning Sept. 9, according to a University spokesperson. 

There were no announced changes to NU’s plan to test students for COVID-19. The University reiterated that any student, regardless of their class year or housing status, could access testing through the Northwestern University Health Service after experiencing symptoms or being identified through contact tracing. However, surveillance testing will focus only on those planning to be on campus in the fall. Students living off-campus who are not approved to come to campus — first- and second-year students who did not receive an exemption — will not be tested recurringly.

On-campus students will be tested weekly by Northwestern, and given the change in volume of students in residence halls, upperclassmen living off-campus are likely to be tested more frequently as well, said a University spokesperson. 

In the email, the University wrote that its goal has been to return to campus “as fully, as quickly and as safely as possible.” However, by the end of last week, administrators wrote they were no longer hopeful that would still be the case in the fall for the entire community.

On Friday morning, the Cook County Department of Health issued a warning for COVID-19 transmission. The rise in COVID-19 cases in suburban Cook County along with input from Northwestern Medicine and public health experts were the main reasons the University decided to switch course, the email read. As positive cases rose both in the area and at other universities who already started their academic years, the University wrote it realized the need to “radically change our plans.”

“Our modeling indicated that if we allowed everyone to return to campus as planned, there would be a high probability that we would be forced to shut down the University within 7 to 10 days of move-in,” the email read.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isabellesarraf

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