University of Michigan president talks fall semester, re-opening The Big House

It's a lesson no one at the University of Michigan has ever taught, but one that management got a crash course in - moving 46,000 students to strictly remote learning in just four days without losing credit. 

They aced that lesson and have good news, too, for the summer. 

"Our enrollment for summer classes exceeded our expectations. I think a lot of our students are home and they don't have their internships or their summer jobs and they are their parents are looking for worthwhile ways to spend their summer. So fortunately for us, many of them decided to continue their education remotely over the summer months," University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said. 

Many, though, are of course wondering if they'll be back on campus in the fall. 

"We take the decision of whether to bring students back or to continue remotely incredibly seriously. That's the front-burner issue for us now, is figuring that out. That and our finances and the state's budget are the front-burner issues for us. We will probably make an announcement in the coming weeks.

"We're planning on two tracks. One track is another fully remote semester; alternatively, we're planning for what I've called a Public Health Informed In-Person Semester."

That second track involves a lot of social distancing, having COVID-19 testing available on-campus, large classes remaining online and smaller groups and labs meeting in-person. 

Even when things open up for certain, things won't look the same as long as the coronavirus is with us - especially in the dorms. 

"We're ramping up the capacity to test every single student when they come back to campus, and then what we'll need is symptom monitoring and as soon as somebody shows symptoms they get tested again and get re-isolated. So we're going to have to keep a number of single rooms in reserve to do this quarantining."

Faculty and staff above the age of 60 and those with preexisting conditions will have to be especially conscious of contact. Then there's athletics, filling up The Big House for games. 

"If it was just a matter of the teams and the coaches we could honestly test every single one of them on the way into a competition and have a pretty high degree of assurance that the players themselves would be safe. It's very difficult for me to imagine how to get tens of thousands, if not a hundred thousand people, in and out of Michigan Stadium. So I won't say it's impossible but I can't see how to do it."

The Maize and Blue boast more than just football and academics. A world-class health system sits on campus, a system that's fiscal health has been hurt during the pandemic. 

"So what we've had to do is get rid of all non-essential spending, get rid of pay increases, get rid of new hiring to fil; empty positions. Our executive team took pay cuts between 5-20% in the health system and we've had to identify a significant number of positions to put on furlough hopefully until our volume is filled back up again

He's also hoping there's a second CAREs Act that helps higher education and health care even more.