In an incredibly short space of time, the entire world has changed due to coronavirus. Almost all of the USA is under strict social distancing requirements, colleges included. While some students have chosen to leave campus and return to their families, others have chosen to or have no choice but to remain on campus. Colleges need to ensure that the students that remain are protected. Some American colleges have gone above and beyond in looking after these students. This list will highlight some of the best.

Students may choose to socially distance on campus for a number of reasons. They may want to avoid coming into contact with vulnerable relatives. They may worry about being unable to return to campus in the future. They may worry about being able to focus on their study at home. These and other concerns are all valid reasons to remain on campus during the coronavirus crisis. These students, as they are apart from their families and in an incredibly stressful situation, really need the support of their colleges. Some American colleges can really claim to have been helping students during this time.

Hopefully, once the coronavirus crisis recedes, a potential second outbreak will not be as bad. Sadly, students cannot count on that. Therefore, it’s important for any prospective student to consider how their potential colleges have responded to coronavirus. Some have really shown that they care for their students’ well-being!

Any one of the colleges on this list is ideal for a student who wants to attend an educational institution that puts its students first during times of crisis. However, it’s also possible that none of the colleges below are right for you. If that’s the case, then this list can still be a vital resource. Every entry has a detailed summary of what the college is doing to ensure that students can remain on campus and practice social distancing safely. These have been included so that you can compare and contrast them with your own college options. If any of your potential colleges has been helping students with social distancing like the ones below, then that’s a strong sign that it’s a great college to attend!


Colleges across the world have changed their activities due to coronavirus. Because of this, many publications have documented the colleges that are taking proactive steps to help students. These publications formed the first stage of our research. After this, we looked into the colleges mentioned in the articles in more depth. Our findings have led to our rankings. The full list of articles used for research is as follows:

Education Dive, Why social distancing can help colleges stem the spread of coronavirus: https://www.educationdive.com/news/why-social-distancing-can-help-colleges-stem-the-spread-of-the-coronavirus/574055/

US News, College Students Feeling the Strain of Social Distancing: https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-04-06/college-students-feeling-the-strain-of-coronavirus

Vox, Harvard’s coronavirus response highlights how college closings are hurting low-income students: https://www.vox.com/2020/3/15/21179640/harvard-coronavirus-move-out

US News, Safety on Campus During the Coronavirus Outbreak: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/coronavirus-on-campus-how-college-students-can-stay-safe

Edsource, Some California college students find refuge on campus during a pandemic: https://edsource.org/2020/some-california-college-students-find-refuge-on-campus-in-middle-of-the-pandemic/626608

NPR, When Colleges Shut Down, Some Students Have Nowhere To Go: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/17/816579130/when-colleges-shut-down-some-students-have-nowhere-to-go

However, the above resources did not list a wide range of colleges that are helping its on-campus community. Therefore, we researched further colleges with similar practices from this best colleges list:

Niche, 2020 Best Colleges: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-colleges/

The 30 colleges below are ranked by the following criteria: willingness to let students remain on campus, evidence of creating a safe environment for students and evidence of further student support during coronavirus.

Our final results, from 30 to one, are below:

30. Duke University

Durham, North Carolina


On March 12, Duke University managed to implement an effective form of social distancing on campus by making it so that student DukeCards could be used to unlock house-only access on its East Campus and quad-only access on its West Campus. On the 26 th of March, the on-campus social distancing measures became even stricter, with students now forbidden from leaving the campus (if they still wished to reside in campus accommodation.) The college also stated that any student who wouldn’t abide by its social distancing measures would face disciplinary action.

29. Indiana State University

Terre Haute, Indiana


Like those at many other colleges, students who live in on-campus housing at Indiana State University were able to apply to remain in their residences due to extenuating circumstances. Students who remained on campus have had access to carry out meals in the college’s dining service and could also access the college’s common and Starbucks for carryout food. The college’s counseling center has also remained open for student appointments, however, group therapy sessions were canceled. Importantly, Indiana State University’s food pantry has remained open throughout the coronavirus crisis.

28. Smith College

Northampton, Massachusetts


The changes to Smith College’s on-campus mail service perfectly illustrate how students who remain in college housing are able to have their needs met. The college has shortened its mail processing service operation times to just Mondays and Thursdays. On-campus students receive notices from mail processing that they have letters and packages waiting for them in lockers. And packages that are too large to fit into lockers have to be picked up by students at a coordinated time. Additionally, to limit the spread of coronavirus, Smith College has forbidden on-campus residing students from leaving Northampton.

27. Stanford University

Stanford, California


When a student at Stanford University tested positive for coronavirus, the college asked all students to return to their family homes. However, the leadership was also sympathetic to many students who wanted to remain on campus. Specifically, the college prioritized “international students who cannot go home; students who have known severe health or safety risks; and students who are homeless.” To ensure that students could also access an appropriate amount of nutrition, the college has also maintained a food service, where students had to go to their meal hall and take pre-filled containers of food and bottled/canned drinks. Stanford University has also helped its socially isolating students by offering virtual tours of its art spaces. On top of this, the college’s Office for Religious Life has been providing daily reflections, virtual gatherings, and maintaining many other wellbeing services in a digital capacity.

26. Carleton College

Northfield, Minnesota


To ensure that all on-campus students are able to stay healthy, Carleton College has provided general cleaning supplies to students. And if a student living on campus is diagnosed with coronavirus, then the college will move that student to a separate residence during their isolation period to keep the other students safe. The college’s dining facilities have ramped up their cleanliness activities. For instance, service utensils are being changed every 30 minutes and the dining staff members are sanitizing throughout the meal periods.

25. Cornell University

Ithaca, New York


Students that have remained on the Cornell University campus during coronavirus have benefited from a range of increased protective measures. For instance, Cornell Police officers are not only still on duty but they are also conducting extra patrols of campus buildings. All of the college residential buildings are also locked 24 hours a day. To ensure that these residences remain safe, the college has forbidden any student from propping open doors or letting unauthorized visitors inside. Additionally, Cornell University was quick to implement enhanced cleaning practices, with high touch point areas such as door handles or tables being disinfected twice daily.

24. Tufts University

Medford, Massachusetts


The leadership at Tufts University has installed additional hand sanitizer dispensers throughout its campus. This ensures that students and other community members on campus have additional opportunities to disinfect their hands after touching surfaces. To further ensure that college community members are able to remain healthy, the college has increased its cleaning and disinfection practices. All high touchpoints within the college are now being disinfected a minimum of twice a day. Approximately 150 Tufts University students have remained on campus. The college has housed these students in one residence hall and given them access only to this campus building and its dining location. And if any of the students who remain on campus during coronavirus need to be quarantined, then they will be moved to a separate hall of residence.

23. Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire


300 students were initially approved to stay on the Dartmouth College campus. By the 24 th of April, only 180 students had chosen to still remain in their campus residences. The college has also sought to keep students who had been employed on-campus in their jobs by giving them the opportunity to work remotely during the coronavirus crisis in many instances. The college then set up supplemental aid for students who are either unemployed or underemployed. Dartmouth College is also helping its on-campus students save money and socially distance in small yet effective ways. For instance, students who have a car on campus are able to keep their cars in their assigned spaces without charge from April to the end of June.

22. Columbia University

New York City, New York


New York City colleges have found themselves in the center of the coronavirus outbreak. Columbia University’s activities are intrinsically linked with the New York City health system, meaning that the college has found itself especially challenged. However, Columbia has definitely risen to this challenge. For instance, any student who studies in a clinical setting is not participating in the care of any patient suspected or known to have coronavirus. For all students who have remained on campus, much has been done to ensure that they can keep themselves healthy, such as the college providing reusable face masks to any student who needs one.

21. The University of Maine

Orono, Maine


Vox notes that The University of Maine has kept its dorms and dining halls open to students who want/need to remain on campus during the coronavirus crisis. Students who have remained on-campus now access some on-campus services, such as the printing services, by appointment only. Many of these services have also been closed to non-University of Maine community members. The college has also shifted many of its on-campus services to an online-only platform. For instance, the Career Center has managed to offer all its usual services online and via phone appointments. Additionally, the college is still maintaining many of its bus services on a regular schedule.

20. University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California


Edsource notes that numerous California colleges are going above and beyond to keep their on-campus students safe while social-distancing. University of California, Los Angeles is one of those. It is actively doing all that it can to provide for its students. For instance, in mid-April, the college announced that it was working with its partners to acquire reusable face coverings for students in on-campus housing who are unable to find their own. Additionally, University of California Los Angeles’s Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center has remained open, providing virtual and physical help for students.

19. California State University, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California


Cheyenne DeWolf is one of the students who have chosen to remain on the California State University, Los Angeles campus during coronavirus. She told Edsource that she was worried about jeopardizing the health of her family back home, among other concerns. Luckily, the college was responsive to her needs. California State University, Los Angeles has also been quick to help any student who feels as if they are being unfairly discriminated against or harassed due to coronavirus related prejudice. The college states that any student who experiences this can contact either the Title IX Office; the Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; the Office of the Dean of Students; and/or the Counseling and Psychological Services.

18. Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa


Initially, Iowa State University had an April 1 st deadline for all students on spring break to return to their on-campus halls of residence if they wished to petition to stay during the spring semester. However, the college realized that some students’ plans could change, so it allowed students to contact the college’s housing department to see if they could return after this date. And Iowa State University has also extended the summer move out date from May 9th to June 7th at no extra charge. This so that students are able to have housing security if they cannot return to their family homes and need extra time to arrange summer living accommodation. And to boost the social distancing measures, the college has been routinely cleaning and disinfecting bathrooms, entrances, public areas, corridors, study rooms, and computer labs every single day.

17. Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan


The leadership of Michigan State University has been sympathetic to students who wish to remain on campus to socially distance. The college has stated that it “will continue to support students in our residence halls.” To protect the health of all of those on campus, Michigan State University employees who can access college buildings must undergo regular health screenings. In addition to this, the college’s Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) Facilities team has increased its cleaning and disinfection activities, with the disinfection of high touch surfaces happening multiple times throughout the day.

16. Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut


CNBC reports that Yale University has continued to provide “housing and food for students who have nowhere to go beyond campus.” The source also notes that the college is refunding room and board for students who have left campus. But what’s really remarkable is the fact that Yale University has continued to pay students who had been employed by the college during the social distancing measures. Students who have remained on campus also have access to “custodial and limited dining services.”

15. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts


Of the initial 700 students who requested to remain on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus during the coronavirus crisis, only 30 were not approved. However, these students could appeal the decision, and the majority of these appeals were then approved. After this, the college implemented a process where students had to relocate to another on-campus residence that would facilitate more effective social distancing practices. And to ensure that the students who remained on campus would not have to skip meals due to financial concerns, Massachusetts Institute of Technology offered a no-cost meal plan.

14. California Polytechnic University, Pomona

Pomona, California


Two students have told Edsource that California Polytechnic University, Pomona has been accommodating to their requests to remain on campus during coronavirus. To help its on-campus students socially distance, California Polytechnic University, Pomona has waived the fees associated with ordering its campus food to be delivered via Campus Grubhub. The college has also allowed students to borrow laptops if they have no computer to access online classes from their homes. And to ensure that students have access to the books that they need for study, the college has worked out deals with its e-book partners to offer students up to seven free e-books until the end of the spring semester.

13. Pomona College

Claremont, California


As early as March 20 th , the leaders at Pomona College assured on-campus students at Pomona College that they could remain throughout the semester if they needed to. On that day, the college had 98 students on campus, compared to the usual number of 1,600. To help these remaining students, the college implemented several on-campus changes. All of the students needed to move into a specific residential building, Oldenburg, which had the healthiest air circulation, offered a much better ratio of students per bathroom and allowed every student to live in a room with no roommates. The college also maintained its meal plans of brunch and dinner, in a takeout capacity. It also provided snacks to all students to ensure that their nutritional needs were met.

12. California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California


On March 12 th , California Institute of Technology advised its students to return to their families for the remainder of the semester. However, it allowed students to remain on campus if they so wished. The college informed its on-campus students that they had to abide by the strict social distancing measures. On March 22 nd , California Institute of Technology announced that all on-campus students were now residing in the Bechtel Residence and that they had to contact the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for permission to access other campus facilities. The college also announced that any student who was not currently residing in the Bechtel Residence seen on campus would be “subject to serious sanction, which may include suspension for the upcoming Spring Term and future terms.”

11. The University of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois


To date, the University of Chicago has kept its quad and other green spaces open. To ensure that these areas do not spread coronavirus, The University of Chicago Police Department is monitoring these spaces. All people in these areas must keep six feet away from others and not participate in gatherings of 10 or more people. The University of Chicago has taken a similar route with its residence halls. While it encouraged all students who could return to their families to do so, it assured students that those who needed to remain on campus could do so indefinitely.

10. University of California, Merced

Merced, California


Unlike many colleges across America, University of California, Merced was quick to realize that the best place for some of its students was on campus. Elizabeth Arakelian, the senior public information officer for the college, told Edsource that it was continuing to “serve many students who may find this the best place to be with wi-fi, healthy food options, a health center.” University of California, Merced is continuing to provide resources for its students throughout the crisis. For instance, on April 14th, the college announced that it had covered the cost of the Calm app for every student, staff, and faculty member.

9. Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey


As early as March 11 th , Princeton University’s Dean of the College and Vice President for Campus Life assured students who needed to remain on campus that they could do so. They released a joint statement, saying that the college “has always been a community that cares for one another, and we will need that spirit now more than ever.” There are many measures in place on the Princeton University campus that allow students to remain comfortable yet safe. For instance, some lounges and common spaces have remained open on the expectation that students implement social-distancing within them. In addition to lounges, the college has kept its Frist Campus Center, chapel, and university store open on a reduced hours basis.

8. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California


When it comes to housing, University of California, Berkeley is “empowering students to choose what works best for them.” That means that there is no mandatory move out date for students and no applications for an exception, unlike many other colleges. All students have access to resources that allow them to socially distance. For instance, both the Cal Student Store and VitalSource are offerin g students access to free e-books that they would otherwise have accessed at the college library. But perhaps most impressively, University of California, Berkeley’s custodial staff members are disinfecting common room entrances, exits, and high touch areas such as light switches and elevator buttons on an hourly basis.

7. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, California


Over 1,600 students told University of Southern California that they could not return to their families. The college has committed to keeping this large number of students safe while they remain on campus. Both the residence hall and security staff members have stepped up their duties in feeding and protecting these students. And if a student who has chosen to remain on campus is later able to return to their family, then the college will not penalize the student for early contract cancellation and will refund the student’s housing costs from their housing check-out date.

6. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Many of the students who have remained living on campus at Carnegie Mellon University have benefited from the COVID-19 room rate adjustment. This has lowered rental costs, even if a student has been moved to a larger room. And if a student who has remained on campus decides to move back to their family address before May 1, they will be able to receive an adjustment in the amount that they owe the college in rent. Unlike many other colleges, Carnegie Mellon University has not instituted a move out date for students. Any student who wishes to remain on campus can do so unless they are returning from a high infection area of the United States.

5. Hamilton College

Clinton, New York


When Hamilton College made the decision to close its campus, Student Life representatives were quick to meet up with students to help them manage this difficult time, NPR reports. A college spokeswoman, Vige Barrie, stated that all students who needed to stay on campus could so. The spokeswoman also stated that students remaining on campus would be given food and equipment to maintain remote learning if the students could not afford it. And to help students who rely upon on-campus job/work-study income, Hamilton College increased all students’ financial aid to cover 50% of their employment expectations.

4. The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio


The leadership at The Ohio State University has instructed all of its faculty members to operate with “a culture of care.” This extends to students who are now social-distancing on and off-campus. Perhaps the most effective way that the college has ensured that students are able to worry less during this time is to give students the option of pass/no pass grading instead of letter grades. The college has also maintained its Counseling and Consultation Service during the coronavirus crisis, ensuring that students are able to access the mental health resources that they need. The Ohio State University’s student body president, Kate Greer, also assured US News that students who have lost on-campus jobs will be able to make up this lost income.

3. Washington University in St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri


Any Washington University in St. Louis employee or student who needs to be on campus for essential work has to be screened daily for coronavirus. Some may consider this level of precaution extreme, but it ensures that the campus is as healthy as possible. Washington University in St. Louis is also helping students who are facing financial burdens due to lost incomes. Students who worked in on-campus jobs are getting a grant to cover their lost earnings. Other students can access the WashU Crisis Response Fund for Students.

2. Emory University

Atlanta, Georgia


The only campus buildings that Emory University students can access are their residential buildings. But they are being accommodated in other ways. All of the outdoor Emory University grounds are open for student access. The Office of Residence, Sorority, and Fraternity Life and other departments are also organizing virtual community activities for on-campus students. Additionally, Emory University’s financial support of students, on-campus or off-campus, has been strong. For instance, the college has committed to pay all student employees for the rest of the term, even if they have lost their college-related job.

1. Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee


The leadership team at Vanderbilt University has prepared to help its on-campus students in a long term capacity. For instance, to ensure that the nutritional needs of the students are met, “Staff coordinated with key suppliers to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain, and in many cases, significantly increased backup and emergency food supplies.” The college has also helped students maintain social distancing while accessing food by implementing a text message ordering system for students. After a student has ordered, a staff member then delivers the food to the student’s door, ensuring that the student does not have to come into close contact with other people. And if that weren’t good enough, then the dining department also prepares care packages for students, which provide snacks and essentials like shampoo. Vanderbilt University has also created a $1 million hardship fund to ensure that students facing financial difficulties are secure.

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