August 24, 2020

After months of careful planning, the University of Missouri resumed in-person classes today, launching the start of the fall 2020 semester. Overall enrollment was 30,849, up 4% from fall 2019. A record retention rate of 90% — a measure of freshmen who return as sophomores — contributed to the growth. Increases also included 7.6% more underrepresented minority students, 5.3% more Missouri residents and a 12.9% increase in transfer students.

All across the university, evidence of Mizzou’s “new normal” could be found as the community adopted measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Some examples included a move-in period into the residence halls that spanned a week instead of three days; socially distanced lecture halls holding a fraction of their typical capacity; a segmented Tiger Walk featuring groups of 20 parading through the Columns; and students wearing thousands of MU-branded face coverings donated to the university by Miller’s Professional Imaging.

“I could not be more proud of the resilience, ingenuity and determination our university community has shown during this extraordinary time,” said Mun Y. Choi, UM System president and MU chancellor. “These past few months have illustrated the power of people coming together for a common purpose and persevering to enable the university’s mission of education, research, outreach and economic development to continue in a way that protects the Mizzou family.”

Since the spring, more than 130 individuals — including experts in public health and medicine — have been developing and implementing the university’s Show Me Renewal Plan, which outlines MU’s safe return. The plan draws on the work of seven workgroups, including a group dedicated to the university’s testing strategy. A key strategy MU is using to influence the adoption of healthy behaviors is education. All faculty, staff and students are required to complete online training about the university’s rules and regulations related to the virus and actively self-monitor their health for any new symptoms through the use of #CampusClear, a free app for Mizzou community members and encouraged for visitors. Last week, Mizzou also announced a new events policy that prohibits university-affiliated gatherings of more than 20 people outside a classroom setting without prior approval. Members of the university community are also expected to follow federal, state and local public health orders, engaging in healthy behaviors both on and off campus.

A comprehensive education campaign features student leaders and influencers discussing the importance of staying safe. Sidewalk clings and other signage display what 6 feet looks like — about the length of a stand-up bass or two arm lengths, for example — as well as hygiene advice in bathrooms such as “Wash your hands like Truman is watching.”

“As we have been saying from the beginning of this process, these guidelines only work if the entire university community is ‘all-in,’” said Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “We are working diligently to educate the community and share what we know to be true: The spread of this virus can be controlled if we’re socially distancing, wearing face coverings, limiting social gatherings, monitoring one’s health and washing our hands. I have seen so many students step up to support one another in following these guidelines and ensuring the success of this semester for all of us. We are truly seeing Tigers supporting Tigers.”

Kim Humphrey, vice provost for Enrollment Management, said the university’s comprehensive plans have helped to alleviate anxiety among students and their families, leading to an enrollment uptick.

“We have heard overwhelmingly from students that they wanted an in-person experience this fall,” she said. “Although we will continue to monitor the pandemic situation closely and are ready to made any needed adjustments, our enrollment numbers show students and their families have confidence in our plans.”

Earlier this summer, the university moved the lecture portion of courses typically held in auditoriums online while often retaining in-person elements such as breakout discussion groups. Preliminary numbers show this year’s course enrollment is about 51% face-to-face; 32.5% fully online; and 16.5% blended (in person and online).

“We have worked hard to be flexible and agile in our programming,” Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Latha Ramchand said. “We know for certain that education is the best investment you can make in yourself — at the same time, and in the current context, students and their families must consider a variety of factors when making decisions about college. Our faculty and staff work really hard to make sure that MU offers exceptional value that befits a top-tier, AAU research university. We are delighted to welcome our new students and reconnect with our returning students in what will certainly be a most memorable semester.”