March 2 Message to Undergraduate Parents: COVID-19 and Study Abroad Programs

To Parents and Guardians of Our Undergraduates:

We realize that you just received an email from us Friday, but the pace of developments involving COVID-19 (as well as some of your questions) prompts us to provide this brief update.

1. Spring Break Study Abroad Programs Canceled

In light of new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, university leaders made the difficult decision to cancel all study abroad programs taking place during spring break. We believe strongly in the enormous academic and personal value of these experiences, and very much hoped they could proceed as planned.

But when the CDC explicitly urged that we consider canceling or postponing programs, adding that “students may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges in returning home or accessing health care while abroad,” our choice was clear.

Affected students received notification earlier today; their faculty are working on alternative approaches to ensure they still can complete the courses’ academic requirements for credit. The Office of Education Abroad (OEA) is also working with students regarding applicable refunds and other considerations. If you are among the parents whose children are affected and have questions about these matters, please contact the OEA at

The university has not made a determination regarding May or summer study abroad programs.

2. Spring Semester Study Abroad Continues for Most

A primary consideration in the decision to cancel Spring Break programs involves their timing—specifically, participating students have not yet departed. In addition, they were scheduled to return to campus within two weeks.

Meanwhile, nearly all of the spring semester study abroad students arrived at their institutions at least several weeks ago, and also have far more flexibility in the date(s) of their departure. The university already has assisted students at institutions the CDC has categorized as Level 3 in returning to their home countries; one who was at what was then a Level 2 country was able to relocate quickly to a safer area, and the university continues to be in contact.

If you have a child or children participating in a spring semester study abroad program and would like additional details about the university’s approach, please contact or, if your questions involve health issues related to COVID-19,

3. Other Items

The university has convened a COVID-19 task force that meets daily to review overnight and anticipated immediate and short-term issues; additional groups are meeting to address longer-term scenarios—for example, the possibility of needing to deliver some courses online, or to consider accommodations for applicants unable to take required standardized tests because exam offerings had been canceled in their countries.

We will continue to communicate with you regarding significant developments. If, in the meantime, you have any concerns or questions, please visit our updates page or email The health and safety of our students remains Case Western Reserve’s highest priority.

Lou Stark
Vice President for Student Affairs

Sara Lee, MD
Executive Director, University Health and Counseling Services