With coronavirus spreading and spring break around the corner, Minnesota’s higher ed institutions are practicing maximum caution.
The Minnesota State colleges and universities system has suspended international travel, effective Feb. 28, chancellor Devinder Malhotra announced earlier this week.
The suspension impacts international travel for all 37 Minnesota State schools. This includes study abroad programs at places like St. Cloud State University, Minnesota State University, and Winona State University, where programs have been cancelled. It’s not clear if the students will be reimbursed.
“It is paramount that we ensure the safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff. Given the risks associated with the coronavirus, the CDC’s guidelines, and out of an abundance of caution, Minnesota State is taking all necessary precautionary steps,” Malhotra said in a statement. “We are working closely with our colleges and universities and the Minnesota Department of Health to continue monitoring the situation.”
The policy is in line with new guidelines from the CDC issued March 1, encouraging higher ed institutions to cancel and postpone foreign exchange programs. The chancellor wasn’t available for further comment.
The policy doesn’t apply to personal international travel for students, faculty, and staff, though several Minnesota State institutions are cautioning against international travel for spring break.
“At this point, we recommend that you do not make new plans until we get more clarification on longer-term plans from the Chancellor’s Office,” MSU Mankato’s website said. “If you are able to cancel now or later, we recommend you do that.”
On Wednesday, the University of Minnesota announced that two students from the UMN were put into quarantine after coming into close contact with a person confirmed to have the virus while returning from Europe. The U of M, not a member of the Minnesota State system, halted education programs in China in January, and then to South Korea and Italy at the end of February.
Private colleges and universities across the state are also suspending programming, bringing students home, and cautioning against travel.
St. Johns’ University has discontinued its academic programs at its Rome campus as of Feb. 28, and is working on bringing students home to complete coursework online.
“At this point, we strongly encourage students and employees to carefully evaluate international travel,” the university’s website stated. “This situation is evolving daily; thereby it is difficult to anticipate what else may change in Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world over the coming days and weeks.”
On the same day, the University of St. Thomas cancelled its Rome programs and closed its Bernardi campus there, strongly encouraging students to return home.
“Because travel restrictions may change rapidly, we strongly discourage university faculty, staff and students from traveling internationally for work or personal reasons,” St. Thomas officials said in a news release.
Carleton College has cancelled its study abroad program in Japan for the spring, and is working on setting up alternative arrangements for the students.
And while St. Catherine University does not have any students studying abroad in affected countries currently, it has warned students of the potential consequences of international travel.
“It is important to consider not only potential exposure to the virus, but also the possibility of being stranded abroad due to a suspension of airline services and other modes of transportation, or being required to quarantine upon return to the United States,” St. Kate’s officials said on the university’s website.
For more information regarding travel information, visit the CDC’s website.