State lawmakers today will assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on New York's colleges and universities as campuses consider what the fall semester will look like for students, faculty, and staff. 

What You Need To Know

  • The impact of the COVID pandemic is being assessed today by a legislative hearing on the issue.

  • Colleges and universities were among the first to close in March in New York.

  • Not being able to access lab space could be a problem for returning students and some colleges are dealing with a steep decline in enrollment.

  • The union that represents faculty has called for widespread COVID testing.

The hearing, to be held by the Higher Education Committees of the state Senate and Assembly, comes as public university and college campuses are considering how to reopen in the fall and whether some form of distance learning will continue. 

Public college campuses were closed in March as the pandemic began to spread through New York, one of the first signs the state was beginning to gradually close down staples of life in order to stem the outbreak of the virus. 

Distancing learning for college students is likely easier to achieve than, say, trying to teach a first-grade student. But there are complicating factors for higher education institutions as well: Students need access to laboratories and libraries, physical spaces where social distancing and mask wearing will be necessary. 

At the same time, some colleages are facing sharp declines in their enrollment, forcing a financial reckoning for some schools.

The union that represents SUNY faculty and staff have called for widespread testing of those returning to campus in order to achieve a baseline and safely start the year. 

United University Professions President Fred Kowal said in an interview last month the state's already massive testing capacity needs to be expanded now to safely start the school year. 

"There must be testing, it must be mandatory, in order to get the semester off to as healthy and productive a semester as possible," he said.