7.17.20: Lehigh University Message from Nathan Urban and Patricia Johnson

A message sent to students and families and shared with faculty and staff.

Dear Lehigh Students and Families,

We are moving toward finalizing our plans for the Fall semester with the health and safety of our community and neighbors in Bethlehem foremost in our minds. In doing so, we are striving to determine the best approach to providing an outstanding educational experience for all Lehigh students.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve across the country, we know the Fall semester will be unlike any we have seen before and will require tremendous flexibility and resilience from all of us. Much work has been accomplished since the end of last semester. Faculty have taken courses, shared ideas and experiences, learned from colleagues at Lehigh and other institutions, and are well-prepared to meet the high academic standards of teaching our students and families rightly expect.

Our Student Affairs team is developing new models for fostering the developmental growth and co-curricular environment that is such an important part of the college experience. Campus safety protocols to facilitate social distancing and the wearing of face coverings are in place, as are sanitization processes and procedures. We encourage you to visit our website for information and updates. Details on our current approach to health and safety, academics and other topics are available, with information being added and updated to address questions.

Our goal had been to enable students who want to return to campus to have that opportunity. As we write, however, nearly 40 states are experiencing increases in cases of COVID-19, some showing significant spikes. The Commonwealth is recommending that travelers from 18 states quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Pennsylvania. International travelers are being asked to do the same. We are also learning more, though there is still much to learn, about the spread of the virus, including through closed spaces and by asymptomatic individuals. There is a current strain on the testing infrastructure that could limit our testing capabilities and the turnaround time for results. Given these factors—which have serious implications for our testing protocols, the quarantining of students coming from “hot spots,” and the de-densification of living spaces—our goal may not be possible. As we continue to study the data and consult with health professionals, we are determining what can be safely and sustainably accomplished in the Fall semester.

Next week, we will be hosting the first in a series of live video conversations with university leaders to address questions and provide an update on our thinking and plans around opening. Additional information and the date and time are forthcoming. We recognize the uncertainty families are experiencing in light of this information and are appreciative of your continued understanding as we work continuously to finalize these plans, which prioritize the health and safety of all. The below information outlines new updates regarding tuition and fees, financial aid, course registration, pacing break, and athletics.

Tuition and fee changes

  • Because of the economic impact of the pandemic on families across the country, Lehigh will hold tuition at the 2019-2020 rate and reverse the increase that we announced in the Spring. Tuition will be $54,790 rather than $56,980.
  • Lehigh will also waive the student activity fee for Fall 2020.
  • If you have signed a housing contract to live on campus and would like to take classes fully remotely, you may exit your on-campus housing contract with no penalty.
  • If you have already submitted the application for the four-payment plan, it is not necessary to submit an updated application. Students who are not financial aid recipients will have their August 15th payment adjusted by the amount of the tuition decrease ($1,095 for the semester). Students who submitted the four-payment plan and are receiving financial aid will not need to adjust their payment plan.
  • Students and their authorized users will be notified via email when the tuition bills will be available to view through the eBill Suite. There are instructions for adding authorized users on the Bursar's Office website.

Information About Financial Aid –

  • Important: Need-based financial aid is based on the total cost of attendance; therefore, students receiving need-based aid will see their financial aid decrease to reflect the reversal of the previously planned tuition increase. Families receiving need-based aid will see no impact.
  • Students will be notified via email when their financial aid award has been updated and they can view their updated awards on the portal. If you are having trouble accessing your information on the portal, please follow these instructions.

If you have questions or concerns about your financial aid award, please contact the Office of Financial Aid at financialaid@lehigh.edu, or by calling 610-758-3181. If you have questions or concerns about your charges or your bill after it is received, please contact the Bursar's Office at bursar@lehigh.edu or 610-758-3160.

Course updates and pacing break

An overarching principle guiding our academic planning is that all Lehigh students must be able to receive an outstanding education and make normal progress toward their degree. Our plans account for the dual needs of supporting a safe and equitable academic environment:

  • Students who are taking classes remotely do not need to request special permission.
  • We have greatly enhanced our capabilities in the area of remote instruction since March when we moved more than 1,000 courses online in a matter of days. Since the Spring, more than 350 faculty have participated in workshops and other forms of training in online and technology-enhanced teaching. We also have invested in additional classroom technology for creating a better learning experience for students in the classroom and online.
  • Over the last month, we’ve begun to resume research with the structured return of faculty and graduate students to campus. This has provided an opportunity to finetune health protocols around the safe resumption of campus activity.
  • Given the current difficulties surrounding obtaining visas and travel restrictions and guidelines, our Office of International Affairs has been communicating and working directly with our international students to provide guidance and support.

Additional information, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the academics page of the COVID-19 information website.

Registration and Course Schedules –

  • Registration and Academic Services (RAS) will be updating their FAQ and providing additional information to current students about course schedules in further detail. This will include information about which courses will be delivered in which formats.
  • For students who already registered, RAS is working to keep the times and days of most courses the same, but some changes may be needed as rooms are assigned to comply with social distancing requirements. Any changes will be communicated and students will have an opportunity to make final changes to their schedules.
  • Course registration for first-year students opens July 27; students should refer to the email sent July 3 with this information.

Pacing Break –

  • We will be rescheduling the Fall Pacing Break, originally planned for October 12-13, to occur November 23-24 to allow students time to travel home. The academic calendar will be adjusted accordingly.
  • For students who will be living on campus, we are asking and encouraging them not to travel until instruction ends the week before Thanksgiving.
  • All instruction, including exams, taking place after Thanksgiving will conclude remotely.
  • There will be no classes during the week of Thanksgiving.


The Patriot League announced that it canceled the Fall 2020 sports season:

  • Patriot League teams will not engage in competition in the Fall season (championship and non-championship).
  • Decisions surrounding winter and spring sport competition will be made at a later date.
  • The opportunity for conditioning, strength training and other practice opportunities in all sports will be permitted provided health and safety conditions support such activities.
  • Read the full announcement.

We recognize this is a difficult decision for all involved, and especially disappointing for our student-athletes, as well as our community. Our athletics program remains committed to supporting health and safety and looks forward to resuming healthy competitive opportunities when it is safe to do so.

Fall events

In every facet of life on campus, the pandemic has required that we think creatively about how we can sustain the personal and collective experiences that make Lehigh, Lehigh, while also supporting the health and safety of all members of our community. We aim to minimize the number of people physically traveling to campus from around the country.

Fall traditions that orient first-year students and families to life at Lehigh will be held virtually:

  • Details on preLUsion and Orientation programs are still unfolding. Incoming students will continue to receive information from the Office of First Year Experience regarding the format and schedule of orientation. Lehigh preLUsion participants will continue to receive updates specific to their program as details are finalized.
  • Family Orientation will be held virtually.
  • Student Convocation and The Rally will be virtual.
  • Founder's Celebration and Family Week will also be held virtually.

While how we welcome our new members and gather as a community may look different, we are excited to share and engage you in our planning for making these events meaningful and memorable.

And although the necessary health and safety measures will mean that the Fall semester will be different than semesters that came before it, our Lehigh community remains the same: strong, spirited and resilient. More information to come.


Nathan Urban

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Patricia Johnson

Vice President for Finance and Administration