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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

DSU touts success with steady enrollment and low COVID case count

Delaware State University considers its fall semester amid the pandemic a success.

College enrollment was down this fall across the country. But enrollment at Delaware’s HBCU remained steady.

The university had 5,027 undergraduate, graduate and online students this fall — just 27 shy of its record enrollment last year.

DSU spokesman Carlos Holmes credits this to the school's transparency with students.

“We have students that are very committed to fulfilling their academic aspirations here,” he said. “So we believe we probably helped ourselves out by communicating with students early and often throughout this pandemic.”

DSU held the majority of its courses virtually this semester, and fewer students lived on campus than usual. The residential population this fall was 1,575, lower than the pandemic-era cap the school had set, according to Holmes, and lower than the normal residential population of more than 2,200.

Holmes says the school feels confident in the virtual version of its curriculum. But with the semester still wrapping up this month, he can’t say yet how students did.

DSU required students and staff on campus to be tested for COVID twice a week. That came to close to 35,000 tests over the course of the semester. The school detected 143 cases of the virus among students and staff—a positivity rate of less than half a percent. For comparison, the much larger University of Delaware performed around 2,700 tests during the fall semester and reported more than 700 cases.

“We have been successful in keeping our University community safe by relying on the best science and public health practices; rigorously pursuing our mission; and caring enough about each other to hold each other accountable – day in and day out,” said DSU President Tony Allen in a statement. “That is what [it] means to be a substantively diverse, contemporary and unapologetic HBCU.”

DSU hopes to increase the number of students living on campus this spring, as well as the percent of classes offered face-to-face.

But that may depend on the state of the COVID-19 outbreak in Delaware. 

“We’re going to be looking very closely at what’s going on in the state of Delaware in December, into January, and then some decisions will be made in terms of what we can do,” Holmes said.

Most of the students living on DSU's campus left last week, except for around 200 who will remain on campus between semesters.

Students return to campus Jan. 19, a week later than usual. The school is making up the time by cancelling spring break.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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