American University on Thursday became the latest prominent school in the nation’s capital to reverse plans for residential education in the fall. The university announced that it will deliver classes entirely remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic when the term begins next month.


AU also disclosed it will discount fall tuition by 10 percent, a break from the full price that would be worth roughly $2,500 to $2,700 for full-time undergraduates.

The private university in Northwest Washington previously had said it would house up to 2,300 students on campus in single dormitory rooms and deliver instruction through a blend of methods in person and online.

Now, as the novel coronavirus surges in various parts of the country and D.C. officials move to tighten public health measures, AU officials say they must scrap their initial blueprint for the school year. They posted a notice to the university community that fall undergraduate and graduate classes would be offered “online with no residential experience.”

Georgetown University, also in Washington, on Wednesday withdrew plans to bring a significant number of students back to campus. George Washington University, too, has announced that fall undergraduate courses will be online and student housing will be limited.

These announcements, along with AU’s, reflect the challenge of providing an immersive higher education experience while the nation endures a virus that has killed at least 148,000 Americans.

“COVID-19 offers no easy answers, and we all must take difficult steps to navigate these times,” AU President Sylvia M. Burwell and other school officials wrote Thursday. “While it is disappointing that we are unable to be on campus this fall, we will not be deterred from our work or our purpose.”


AU officials said some exceptions will be made to allow students in challenging personal circumstances to live on campus.

Elementary and secondary schools in Washington and many surrounding cities and counties are also planning to open the school year with online instruction. That poses a major hurdle for college faculty and staff who have school-age children.

For universities nationwide, a key challenge is to minimize the loss of tuition revenue in the coming year. AU typically enrolls about 14,000 students, including 8,500 undergraduates. The price cut that AU announced Thursday could be meant in part to bolster enrollment in a turbulent time as many college students are pondering whether to take time off from school. The university said it is “committed to providing a world-class education and the best possible experience regardless of location or course modality.”