By Christina Hager

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) — College students across the country are scrambling to figure out whether they should change their plans to live at school or stay at home.

“As soon as I saw the plan, I was like that’s it, mom, I’m taking a gap year,” said Andrea Wilber. After graduating from Walpole High School, she was set to start at Miami University in Ohio this fall.

When she learned her classes would be online in the beginning, she decided to hold her spot, and defer a year. “I just think it wouldn’t be like the college experience that I’ve looked forward to for so long,” she said.

She plans to get work experience at an internship instead.

It’s happening at colleges across the country. At Harvard University, 340 incoming freshmen — about 20% of the class —  are deferring a year.

This week, UMass Amherst reversed its policy for fall, announcing dorms are now off-limits to most students.

“It’s been tough because you never know what’s going to happen next,” said junior Jack MacKinnon.

Even though the administration is discouraging students from living in off-campus apartments, many, including MacKinnon, are planning to move close to campus anyway. “I think we’ll be safe. If everyone follows the rules, we’re all wearing masks, we’re all going to be socially distant,” he said.

If students do get sick, one company called GradGuard is working with 350 colleges to offer tuition reimbursement insurance for students who withdraw due to COVID-19 or pandemic-related mental illness.

“Tuition insurance provides a refund to students and their families for housing, tuition, academic fees, and deposits, the financial loss that you might experience,” said GradGuard CEO John Fees. “COVID makes it even less likely that colleges are going to be in a position financially to provide refunds.”

Christina Hager

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