Miami Dade College reopens facing the steepest enrollment decline in its history

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Amid the worst enrollment decline in the school’s 60-year history, Miami Dade College reopened its campuses Monday to thousands of students taking in-person classes, a move administrators hope will encourage students to sign up for courses and soften the revenue drop, but that some faculty have argued is unsafe.

The college started its fall term Sept. 1 with only 5 percent of its courses in person, mainly those that couldn’t be taught remotely, such as aviation, fashion and cuisine, and 20 percent of its courses remote.

The remaining 75 percent were ‘hybrid,’ meaning courses would start online, but would include some in-person components later on, if conditions allowed.

College administrators added in-person components to the hybrid courses as of Monday, citing how Miami-Dade County’s COVID positivity rate remained under 10 percent for two consecutive weeks.

“It’s been nearly four weeks and we are closer to 5% than 10%,” Juan Mendieta, a college spokesperson, said in a Monday email. “Plus, there are numerous safety measures that have been put in place.”

Elizabeth Ramsay, president of the United Faculty of Miami Dade College, the faculty union, said she would have preferred if the college had waited until the positivity rate fell to under 5 percent, and ideally stood at about 2 to 3 percent.

Miami-Dade’s positivity rate shot up to 6.87 percent, according to Tuesday’s report from the Florida Department of Health, up from 2.72 percent in Monday’s report and the highest level in about two weeks. The county’s 14-day average was 4.44 percent, according to Tuesday’s report.

Ramsey said faculty members remain committed to working with the college administration “to make the situation work” but believes state and federal officials forced the college to open earlier than it should have, threatening to take away funding.

“We teach science, but apparently