Michigan's three biggest universities anticipate online classes until next fall

Online classes at Michigan's three largest research universities will likely last for the entire academic year, keeping many students out of classrooms until next fall, campus leaders said Thursday.

The presidents of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University spoke during a Lansing Economic Club event.

Mark Schlissel of U-M said the development of coronavirus vaccines will be important in any return to in-person instruction. About 20% of U-M classes now are in-person.

(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

"What I'm most nervous about is that we'll have one or several vaccines, but we'll botch the delivery," Schlissel said. "Our country has not demonstrated great capacity for organized, nationwide action, and that's what it's going to take to deliver a vaccine to 300 million people."

M. Roy Wilson of Wayne State in Detroit said the winter semester will look like the current term.

"This is going to be with us for a while," Wilson said of the virus.

Most classes at MSU have been online since March. Samuel Stanley Jr. said he'll be watching how other colleges perform with in-person classes.

"If there are not cases of transmission in a classroom where people are wearing masks, where they are socially distanced ... that gives me much more confidence that we can teach safely in that environment, and I think you might see more campuses come back," Stanley said.