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'It's been a tearful evening' New Orleans college seniors to spend last days of college at home

Senior year was cut short for thousands of students after nearly every university in New Orleans made the decision to move all classes online.

In each city where there's worry over the spread of the coronavirus, you can find both disappointment and understanding on college campuses.

The last few weeks of school, for most college seniors, involve a lot of social events and eventually, a diploma. Members of the class of 2020 across New Orleans will be finishing those degrees online.

Senior year was cut short for thousands of students after nearly every university in New Orleans made the decision to move all classes online.

"Honestly, I'm pretty sad about it. I know most of my classmates are sad about it, too, because it's our senior year," said Jennifer Riggen, a senior at Tulane University.

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Tulane has asked students to move out of on-campus housing. But upperclassmen say they'd rather stay in New Orleans than risk traveling home.

"As of now, I don't have a flight booked home. I'm ready to stay," said Allison Voorhees, a senior from Maryland who is studying public health.

At Loyola University, move-out is flexible, but classes will be all online. Student body president Jessamyn Reichmann Young knew there would be a tipping point, and was involved in the decision-making process with administrators, but did not think the coronavirus would change plans so quickly.

"I didn't realize on Wednesday that I'd be showing up and it'd be my last day of undergrad. so it's been a tearful evening, I'll say that," said Reichmann Young.

Loyola, Tulane, Dillard, University of New Orleans, and others are navigating an unprecedented digital-era emergency and are finding ways to make online work for everyone on short notice.

Reichmann Young said in advocating for her fellow students, there was a lot to consider.

"For example, students who don't have access to internet at home, digital equity. what does it mean for students who decide to stay on campus? will the library still be open? what does that mean for performance-based courses? lab-based courses?"

For some seniors who won't get to say goodbye to friends or attend annual celebrations, it's a tough pill to swallow but out of their control.

"Among my peers, I don't think we are going to expose ourselves to these unnecessary precautions traveling outside the state, when we can stay here where the cases are low as of now, and just taking the measures of social distancing like are encouraged," said Voorhees.

"It's really interesting to think about how in five years, we'll still be studying this as students of public health."

Many students are concerned about commencement ceremonies. Colleges in New Orleans have not made final decisions on those events.

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