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Are colleges and universities open? What are the safety requirements?

Last Updated: 11/18/2020

Institutions of higher education may resume all in-person instruction in accordance with the safety requirements and guidance outlined by the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) and Executive Order No. 155.

Institutions must provide students with the option of participation via remote instruction to the extent practicable.

In addition, computer labs at private and public colleges and universities may reopen so long as they adhere to the required safety protocols detailed in Administrative Order No. 2020-17 and OSHE-submitted restart plans.

Colleges and universities must submit their restart plans to OSHE at least 14 days before any staff or students return to campus. These plans will be reviewed in coordination and consultation with the Department of Health.

Safety Requirements

The following summarizes some of the protocols contained in Executive Order No. 155 and OSHE's Restart Standards for all New Jersey Institutions of Higher Education. However, this summary is not a replacement for fully complying with the terms of EO 155 and OSHE's Restart Standards, and institutions should read the full guidance carefully to ensure full compliance.

Institutes of higher education must create policies and procedures that include:

  • Use of face coverings for faculty, staff, students, and visitors, except when doing so would inhibit the individual's health
  • Frequent cleaning and sanitization of classrooms, residences, restrooms, high-touch areas,equipment and shared surfaces
  • Maintenance of adequate supplies, such as personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies
  • Continued remote instruction for faculty and/or students who are unable to participate in in-person instruction
  • Social distancing in classrooms, residence halls, restrooms, and other areas across campus
  • Limitations on the number of students who may return to residence halls and restricted access to residential common areas
  • Designation of space(s) for separation of individuals residing on campus who display symptoms consistent with or have a positive diagnosis of COVID-19
  • A plan for on-campus transportation, which should include protocols for transporting sick students residing on campus to essential appointments as needed

In addition, institutions will be responsible for establishing screening and testing protocols on their campus for employees and students. As access to testing and testing reliability changes, institutions will need to update their protocols.

For a full list of safety requirements and procedures, refer to the OSHE's Restart Standards for all New Jersey Institutions of Higher Education.

Note: Beginning November 5, employers must adhere to new employee protection guidelines, summarized here. Detailed requirements, as well as exemptions for certain employers, can be found in Executive Order No. 192.

Safety Guidance For Students Travelling For The Holidays

Students going home for the holidays are at risk of bringing COVID-19 infection with them, especially if there is an outbreak at their college or university. Even if they are asymptomatic (have no symptoms), students could unknowingly transmit the virus to vulnerable and at-risk individuals and contribute to widespread community transmission.

To protect your loved ones, the Department of Health has released guidance for students travelling home for the holidays.

Before Going Home

  • Students should quarantine away from their families for 14 days before interacting with family members.
  • Students who have family members at high risk of complications from COVID-19 infection (over 60 or with chronic medical conditions) should complete their quarantine somewhere other than in the same household with those high-risk family members.
  • Students should consider getting tested before leaving campus and 5-7 days after any potentially high risk activity (e.g., attendance at a party or gathering). Complete a 14-day quarantine even if the test(s) is (are) negative, as symptoms may occur at any time within that period.
  • If a student tests positive, they should have an isolation plan. The isolation period can generally end 10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, and with improvement of other symptoms. If a person tests positive and has no symptoms, they should stay home for 10 days.
  • Anyone with symptoms or a positive test should avoid traveling home if possible.
  • Download the COVID Alert NJ app on your cell phone. The app is free and available for Apple and Android phones.
  • Get a flu shot before you travel.

For more on how to protect yourself and your loved ones during the holidays, see the Department of Health's guidance for students travelling home for the holidays.

Find a testing center near you by visiting

In addition, the Governors of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts are urging colleges and universities to make COVID testing available to all residential students before they leave for Thanksgiving break.

Source:; Administrative Order No. 2020-17; Executive Order No. 175