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Top 30 Schools Successfully Fighting COVID

Saying that the coronavirus pandemic has upended colleges and universities across the nation is not a stretch. Perhaps more than any other pillar of society (besides our healthcare systems), institutes of higher education have been burdened by nearly insurmountable challenges and obstacles since the onslaught of Covid-19 in the United States earlier this year. While some schools have buckled under the pressure, others have stepped up to the challenge wielding weapons like innovation, perseverance, resourcefulness, and expertise. In this ranking, we highlight the top 30 colleges and universities in the country successfully navigating the global public health crisis.

Rating and Ranking Methodology

One point will be awarded for each policy stipulation put in place by the institution in the following categories:

  • Social Distancing
  • Face Coverings
  • Contact Tracing
  • Covid Testing
  • Virtual Class Options
  • Campus Access
  • Student Quarantine Accommodations
  • Dorm Capacity/Visitation Guidelines
  • Cleaning and Sanitation Protocols
  • Mental Health and Wellness Resources
  • Dining and Food Safety
  • Communications and Technology
Rating and Ranking the Top Colleges and Universities Successfully Battling Covid-19

To develop this ranking, our editors began with an initial pool of the 50 best colleges in America, according to Niche. We then examined each of these school’s Covid-19 responses, using the information provided on the school’s website. Armed with this data, we applied the rating and ranking methodology above. In the case of a tie, the more affordable school was awarded the higher ranking.

#30—Harvard University

Student to Faculty Ratio: 7:1        

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Website

Points: 30

Harvard University

Harvard University has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus on its campus. Intending to invite students back on campus to the extent that it is safe, the school has implemented remote instruction when necessary and limited access to campus to keep students and faculty members protected from exposure to Covid-19. Students living on campus are tested three times per week via self-administered coronavirus tests, and drop-off locations for these tests are located across campus. Students who test positive for the virus are quarantined, and a contact tracing process begins. Quarantined students are provided with daily meals, medical supplies, and health check-ups.

Undergraduate Tuition: $51,925

#29—Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1        

Website

Points: 31

Yale University

Yale University is taking the responsibility to protect its students and faculty members amid the global pandemic very seriously. For example, students are required to conduct a daily health check for symptoms of Covid-19 before attending any campus class or activity. Numerous other protocols have been established to limit exposure to or spread of the novel coronavirus. The school has provided free testing for all students, and the frequency of the testing is determined by how often each student visits campus. A robust contact tracing system has also been implemented to prevent the virus’s spread once positive tests have been identified.

Undergraduate Tuition: $55,500

#28—Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1        

Website

Points: 32

While its students’ health and safety are of utmost priority to Northwestern University amid this unprecedented public health crisis, the school has also taken significant steps to maintain its academic integrity. Despite being forced to move some instruction online, Northwestern is still upholding rigorous quality standards for curricula and instructional methods. A variety of resources are available to students as they transition to remote and hybrid learning models, and online writing and tutoring services are available. Moreover, the university has also extended resources and assistance to faculty members to adapt to online instruction during the pandemic.

Undergraduate Tuition: $56,691

#27—California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

Student to Faculty Ratio: 3:1        

Website

Points: 32

Not surprisingly, the California Institute of Technology has instated a technology-based approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic. The school’s Covid-19 Dashboard is constantly updated, and students can sign up to receive email notifications when there is a new coronavirus case on campus. On the information front, Cal Tech faculty members are developing ongoing webinars for students addressing various aspects of the public health crisis, including the history of pandemics, the environmental effect of the coronavirus, and the social impact of isolation, for example. Steps are also being taken to increase access to remote learning when necessary and enhance virtual learning quality.

Undergraduate Tuition: $54,600

#26—Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1        

Website

Points: 33

Duke University

Duke University has taken a student-centered approach to mitigating the spread of the coronavirus on its campus. To remain enrolled during the public health crisis, all students must sign a compact in which they agree to take certain protective measures for their own safety and the safety of others. This includes wearing a face mask, adhering to social distancing guidelines, and complying with proper hand-washing, for instance. Students are tested for the virus periodically whether or not they show symptoms, and aggressive contact tracing is utilized in the case of positive results.

Undergraduate Tuition: $58,031

#25—Cornell University

Ithaca, New York

Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1        

Website

Points: 34

Cornell University’s reactivation plan amid the global public health crisis has been carefully planned and coordinated for the maximum safety level possible. The school’s approach to keeping Covid-19 off campus to the extent that it is feasible includes robust surveillance testing, a required daily health check for all students and faculty, enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols, and required behavioral guidelines for students includes mandatory face coverings and social distancing. The school has also considered the potential mental health effects of the pandemic on its students and has responded by elevating the resources already available to students experiencing anxiety or distress.

Undergraduate Tuition: $57,222

#24—Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee

Student to Faculty Ratio: 7:1        

Website

Points: 34

Vanderbilt University’s administrators seem to have thought of everything when planning for students’ return to campus amid the coronavirus pandemic. The school’s exhaustive approach includes facilitating proper infection mitigation procedures around campus and inside classrooms. Students are provided with face coverings, and time between classes has been extended as they take specific routes around campus to avoid close contact with other students. Both on-campus and off-campus students are provided with ample Covid-19 testing opportunities as well as contact tracing services, and accommodations are provided in the case of quarantine and isolation.

Undergraduate Tuition: $52,070

#23—Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1        

Website

Points: 36

 Williams College boasts one of the most rigorous Covid-19 testing programs in our ranking. The school’s on-campus students are required to be tested for the coronavirus twice per week. Much of the school’s other efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus center around limiting campus access. All campus buildings and facilities are closed to visitors, and students need card access to gain entry. Moreover, students are not allowed to come and go as they were for previous years. Instead, they are only permitted to leave campus for essentials such as grocery shopping. Enrolled students must sign a pact agreeing to these and other precautions, and the school outlines disciplinary procedures should students violate Covid-19 guidelines.

Undergraduate Tuition: $57,280

#22—Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

Student to Faculty Ratio: 7:1        

Website

Points: 38

At the core of Dartmouth College’s strategy for keeping Covid-19 off its campus is the belief that students can protect themselves and others from infection and exposure when given the proper resources. In this spirit, the school has installed dozens of no-contact infrared thermometers in campus buildings. Students are required to conduct a daily self-assessment, which includes a temperature check. In addition, the university is conducting rigorous Covid-19 testing. Students are tested three times upon initial arrival on campus, and ongoing surveillance testing is also implemented. Even the school’s wastewater is being tested for evidence of the virus.

Undergraduate Tuition: $57,638

#21—Wellesley College

Wellesley, Massachusetts

Student to Faculty Ratio: 8:1        

Website

Points: 38

While Wellesley College plans for a safe welcoming of students back to campus, school administrators are also dedicated to providing remote services to those students who are learning virtually. This includes academic support and an entire suite of student services, including telehealth, counseling, and even student activities. Only those living on campus have access to buildings and facilities; however, they must agree to a code of conduct and submit a negative Covid-19 test before returning to campus. Dorms have been converted to single occupancy amid the pandemic, though students will need to share a restroom with several other students.

Undergraduate Tuition: $56,052

#20—Davidson College

Davidson, North Carolina

Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1        

Website

Points: 38

By welcoming its students back to campus during a pandemic, Davidson College has undertaken a seemingly impossible task—bringing its students back together while simultaneously keeping them apart (six feet apart, that is). Much of the school’s Covid-19 reopening plan centers around social distancing protocols. Large gatherings are prohibited on campus, and classrooms and other campus facilities have been redesigned to support proper physical distancing. Students are even encouraged to report fellow classmates who are observed violating social distancing guidelines. Even as the school is mandating these strict social distancing rules, it is also planning for students to socialize within safe proximities. Some of these planned social activities include virtual fitness groups, disc golf, and mindfulness hikes.

Undergraduate Tuition: $53,166

#19—Brown University

Providence, Rhode Island

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1        

Website

Points: 39

Much of Brown University’s strategy for keeping students protected amid the public health crisis comprises policies and procedures to limit access to campus. In effect, these procedures are designed to create a safe haven for students to live and learn without unnecessary and risky exposure to the novel coronavirus. For example, undergraduate students are not permitted to travel out of state without emergency approval, and visitors are currently prohibited from all campus facilities. Students are designated to certain “pods” of five students or less with whom they reside. Interaction with pod members is less restrictive, giving students a sense of community, even during a global pandemic.

Undergraduate Tuition: $58,404

#18—Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Student to Faculty Ratio: 3:1        

Website

Points: 39

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The stringent policies surrounding Covid-19 on MIT’s campus is a direct reflection of the school’s commitment to the health and safety of its students and faculty. Its multi-faceted approach to keeping the virus off-campus includes a heavy focus on cleaning and sanitation; the school has doubled its efforts to maintain the cleanliness of all campus facilities, including classrooms and research labs. MIT students also have access to numerous resources to protect themselves, including easy access to face coverings, PPE, and hand sanitizer, for example. Mental health resources to help students and faculty members navigate the pandemic are also plentifully available in the form of counseling sessions, videos, and podcasts.

Undergraduate Tuition: $53,790

#17—Washington & Lee University

Lexington, Virginia

Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1        

Website

Points: 40

When planning for students’ return to campus amid the public health crisis, administrators at Washington & Lee University knew that they needed students to buy into their protocols for them to be effective. That’s why all returning students must agree to the university’s Statement of Community Expectations to live or attend classes on campus. This lengthy document comprises twenty different affirmations that students must comply with regarding behavioral practices such as social distancing, wearing face coverings, submitting to Covid-19 testing, etc. W&L students must also submit a daily attestation and contact log.

Undergraduate Tuition: $54,830

#16—Columbia University

New York, New York

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1        

Website

Points: 42

columbia top colleges america

Though the school has developed a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach to mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus on its campus, much of Columbia University’s efforts are focused on cleaning and sanitation. In addition to doubling down on its routine cleaning schedule, the school has also installed hand sanitizer dispensers in all campus buildings and implemented new cleaning methods such as steaming, fogging, and electrostatic cleaning. High-touch areas of campus, such as doorknobs, light switches, and elevator buttons are being disinfected twice a day.

Undergraduate Tuition: $61,788

#15—Colby College

Waterville, Maine

Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1        

Website

Points: 42

Colby College’s commitment to keeping students safe amid the pandemic does not come at the price of reduced academic quality or even loss of social connection. Over the summer, the school’s faculty engaged in numerous workshops and professional development experiences designed to ensure rigorous and engaging remote and hybrid instructional methods were utilized across all campus departments and disciplines. Furthermore, students returning to campus undergo training of their own to learn best practices for mitigating the coronavirus’s spread while in class and on campus grounds. Students are allowed to leave campus as they please, so long as they wear a mask and practice social distancing while out and about; however, travel outside of the state is prohibited.

Undergraduate Tuition: $57,280

#14—Middlebury College

Middlebury, Vermont

Student to Faculty Ratio: 8:1        

Website

Points: 42

Like many of the colleges and universities in our ranking, Middlebury College’s approach to mitigating Covid-19 on campus is tempered with concerns about maintaining academic integrity as well as the quality of the college experience. That’s why the school emphasizes that the return to campus is a highly personal decision and acknowledges that doing so is a risk. Simultaneously, Middlebury administrators are taking extreme measures to prevent any potential exposure to the novel coronavirus. This includes restricting campus access to only those students living on campus, rearranging classrooms to accommodate social distancing, and implementing enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols, for example.

Undergraduate Tuition: $56,216

#13—Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Student to Faculty Ratio: 10:1      

Website

Points: 43

Like many other colleges in our ranking, Wake Forest University has developed different protocols for various phases of operations to adequately accommodate the risk the virus poses as it waxes and wanes. As of this writing, the university is in the orange phase, which means it has modified its operations due to increasing Covid-19 positivity rates on campus. This includes restricting students’ movements around campus as well as outside its borders. Dining has pivoted to take-out only, and students are allowed to leave campus only for essential activities. Wake Forest has also increased surveillance testing and adopted more rigorous contact tracing methods.

Undergraduate Tuition: $55,440

#12—Emory University

Atlanta, Georgia

Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1        

Website

Points: 43

Emory University

Despite a tediously planned and multi-faceted approach to staving off Covid-19 infections on campus, Emory University administrators realize that some of their students will likely become sick while away at college. That’s why they have paid particular attention to the services they can offer students who are quarantined on campus. These services include meal delivery, linen service, academic support, and counseling and psychological services, to name a few. Emory is hoping to welcome more students back to campus in the Spring but will continue to limit dorm capacity to accommodate single-occupancy rooms.

Undergraduate Tuition: $53,804

#11—University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Student to Faculty Ratio: 19:1      

Website

Points: 43

In addition to limiting campus access and establishing guidelines for student behavior on campus, the University of California-Berkeley has gone a step forward by creating what administrators have dubbed a “social norms campaign.” The idea is to enlist the help of individual students, student organizations, and academic departments to help normalize Covid-19 friendly precautions on campus. The school has created a toolkit for students and staff to use, including digital logos, posters, banners, and templates that support behavior such as social distancing, routine coronavirus testing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing, for example.

Undergraduate Tuition: $14,253

#10—Colgate University

Hamilton, New York

Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1        

Website

Points: 46

Colgate University

When Colgate University administrators made the difficult decision to invite students back to campus amid the public health crisis, they did so knowing the significant risks such a decision posed. Therefore, in addition to mandating certain behavioral guidelines to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus on campus, the school also made detailed plans for quarantining and isolating those students who become sick or exposed. These plans include hotel-like accommodations for students, daily health check-ins, meal deliveries, and mental health support. Additionally, the university has planned a series of town hall meetings to keep students informed of developments regarding the Covid-19 situation on campus and give them a space to voice any concerns.

Undergraduate Tuition: $58,045

#9—Northeastern University

Boston, Massachusetts

Student to Faculty Ratio: 14:1      

Website

Points: 46

Like all of the other colleges and universities in this ranking, Northeastern University has developed a comprehensive and multi-faceted plan for inviting students back to campus amidst an unprecedented public health crisis. Perhaps the most impressive part of this plan, however, is the school’s efforts to sanitize and disinfect every square inch of its vast network of buildings and facilities. Northeastern’s enhanced cleaning protocols include cleaning all classrooms and public spaces up to three times a day, wiping dining tables every thirty minutes, and even investing in high-tech cleaning systems such as electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation units. In addition, 1,300 hand sanitizer dispensers and 700 hands-free towel dispensers have been installed across campus, all to keep its facilities Covid-free to the extent possible.

Undergraduate Tuition: $53,506

#8—Amherst College

Amherst, Massachusetts

Student to Faculty Ratio: 7:1        

Website

Points: 47

Amherst College

Before welcoming their students back to Amherst, the college’s administrators warned students that campus life would be “markedly different” than in prior years. In addition to submitting to a rigorous thrice-weekly Covid-19 testing schedule, students must stay on campus at all times, using university shops and convenience stores for any essential shopping. Moreover, many social events and club activities have either been canceled or repurposed to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Still, the school is working hard to create a new normal for students that support their overall well-being. Counseling and faith-based events have been moved online, and the Student Activities department is hard at work, creating new Covid-friendly things for students to do on campus.

Undergraduate Tuition: $58,640

#7—University of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

Student to Faculty Ratio: 5:1        

Website

Points: 48

The University of Chicago’s Covid-19 response has been dubbed “Go Forward.” The initiative is a result of hundreds of hours of planning by university officials. It is designed to protect students and faculty from exposure to the novel coronavirus while facilitating some semblance of academic and social normalcy on campus. One innovative way that the school promotes social distancing on campus is through the installation of heated tents outside various university buildings. The tents can be reserved for additional instructional space or events. All students and faculty members returning to campus must undergo formal training and sign a pact agreeing to certain behavioral guidelines, including face coverings and personal hygiene.

Undergraduate Tuition: $60,552

#6—Washington University in St. Louis

Saint Louis, Missouri

Student to Faculty Ratio: 7:1        

Website

Points: 48

Washington University in St Louis

A large portion of Washington University in St. Louis’s approach to protecting its students amid the pandemic centers around efforts to keep them apart while they are together on campus. Notably, the school has installed over a thousand individual cubbies around campus for students to use as personal study pods. Classrooms have also been redesigned to accommodate necessary social distancing measures, and floor decals have been strategically placed to help students maintain distance as they move through campus buildings. Finally, students must follow strict protocols regarding entering and exiting classrooms.

Undergraduate Tuition: $55,292

#5—University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1      

Website

Points: 48

When planning to bring their students back to campus during the public health crisis, administrators at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill knew that they would face a particularly tough challenge when it came to feeding those students. Since eating and drinking around others pose significant risks during a pandemic, careful thought was put into creating an atmosphere that would deter any spread of the virus. Thus, strict dining protocols have been put in place, including employee handwashing every 20 minutes, cleaning tables between every guest, and daily deep cleaning. Employees and students must wear a face covering while in the dining area, except when eating or drinking. Any student who feels ill should avoid coming into the dining area until they have been tested and are feeling better.

Undergraduate Tuition: $8,980

#4—University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Student to Faculty Ratio: 11:1      

Website

Points: 50

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s approach is, not surprisingly, centered on education. Administrators and school officials clearly believe that when their students, faculty, and staff know how to protect themselves and each other successfully, they will take the precautions necessary. In that spirit, the school has developed robust training modules and classes to inform every member of the school community of best practices for virus mitigation, including proper use of face coverings and social distancing. In addition to education, communication and technology are also integral parts of the university’s layered approach to the pandemic. Students complete an online self-assessment each day and sign up for digital messages and updates regarding campus cases.

Undergraduate Tuition: $15,558

#3—University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia

Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1      

Website

Points: 54

University of Virginia

In preparing for students’ return to campus amidst the Covid-19 health crisis, the University of Virginia has devoted a substantial amount of resources to testing its student body and quarantining those who test positive. Different types of coronavirus testing are available to students, including both asymptomatic and symptomatic testing and outbreak testing, and even wastewater evaluation. Students who do test positive for the coronavirus are immediately isolated and quarantined. During their quarantine, they are cared for by university staff who provide medical care, meal delivery, laundry service, and more. The university is also employing technology in the fight against Covid-19; students can download an app that will notify them of potential exposure to the virus.

Undergraduate Tuition: $17,798

#2—Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, Georgia

Student to Faculty Ratio: 19:1      

Website

Points: 55

Georgia Institute of Technology

As one of the most innovative post-secondary institutions of higher learning in the country, it’s no surprise that much of Georgia Tech’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is centered on technology. For instance, thermal imaging temperature screening stations have been strategically installed across campus to ensure students and/or staff members with a fever are not allowed in campus buildings. Air quality sensors and purifiers have been employed in classrooms, and data from sensors is continually monitored. Additionally, students have several different ways of staying informed remotely, including a Covid-19 dashboard, virtual town halls, and informational videos.

Undergraduate Tuition: $12,682

#1—Boston College

Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1      

Website

Points: 56

Not surprisingly, Boston College has identified the classroom setting as a central focus of its Covid-19 reopening plan. As the school prepared to welcome students back to campus amid the pandemic, BC administrators carefully planned out how learning will occur within lecture halls and smaller classrooms alike. In addition to standard precautions such as socially distanced seating and sanitation policies, for instance, the college has taken additional measures to increase instruction safety and quality. For example, sound amplification has been improved in certain classrooms to account for the muffling caused by face coverings. Recording technology has been added to classrooms so that instruction can be live-streamed for students learning remotely. Whether they are classified as remote or in-person, all students are asked to contact instructors via email for any questions during class. Students are also asked to sanitize their seating areas before and after instruction takes place.

Undergraduate Tuition: $57,910

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