COVID-19 Stats: College and University* COVID-19 Student Testing Protocols, by Mode of Instruction§ (N = 1,849) — United States, Spring 2021

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The figure is a bar graph indicating the COVID-19 student testing protocols used by 1,849 U.S. colleges and universities, by instruction type, during spring 2021.

Click here to see a simplified version of this graph for use on social media.

* Includes 1,849 4-year, bachelor’s degree-granting public and private, nonprofit colleges and universities with first-time, full-time undergraduate students as denoted in the National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS); does not include 166 4-year institutions in IPEDS missing mode of instruction data, without clear modes of instruction, with specialized forms of instruction that do not clearly fit into a mode of instruction classification, or with no instruction of any kind for spring 2021.

Institutions conducting mandatory testing for samples of asymptomatic students required periodic testing for various subgroups. The testing “encouraged, but not provided” category includes institutions requiring prearrival testing only, without provision of testing by the institutions themselves (symptomatic or asymptomatic).

§ Includes whether an institution’s classes were predominantly or fully online (online), primarily or fully in-person (in-person), or some mix of the two (hybrid). Institutions were classified as “predominantly online” if the majority of classes were offered online, and hybrid when classes were offered with both in-person and online components. Mode of instruction refers to how classes were taught, not whether students were living on campus; 621 institutions conducting classes online allowed a limited number of students to live on campus.

Data as of March 17, 2021. For institutions that did not announce a specific mode of instruction for spring 2021, the one for fall 2020 was assumed.

As of March 17, 2021, a total of 899 (49%) of 1,849 public and private, nonprofit 4-year U.S. colleges and universities provided some type of COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students, including 548 (30%) institutions conducting classes in-person or in a hybrid format. Among institutions providing testing for asymptomatic students, 389 (43%) had protocols that required periodic testing for various subgroups (e.g., athletes, fraternity and sorority activity participants, and a random sample of students); 287 (32%) mandated that all students receive testing (ranging from every other day to once every other week), which did not vary by public or private, nonprofit status or by mode of instruction. Among institutions, 18% (338 of 1,849) did not mention a COVID-19 testing protocol on their websites, including146 with in-person or hybrid instruction. Although asymptomatic transmission is estimated to account for approximately one half of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, a majority (950; 51%) of institutions did not publish a testing protocol for screening asymptomatic students in spring 2021.

Source: Data from college and university websites collected by the College Crisis Initiative, Davidson College.

Reported by: Christopher R. Marsicano, PhD,; Denise Koo, MD; Emilia Rounds.

Suggested citation for this article: COVID-19 Stats: College and University COVID-19 Student Testing Protocols, by Mode of Instruction (N = 1,849) — United States, Spring 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:535. DOI:

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