At Delaware State University, a historically Black college with about 1,800 of its 5,000 students living on campus this semester, partnerships with the nonprofit Testing for America and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, among other nonprofit groups, have enabled twice-weekly testing. That, in turn, has freed the school to offer some classes in person, and to continue housing on campus hundreds of vulnerable or low-income students who might have had nowhere else to go, Tony Allen, the school’s president, said.
Less than 1 percent of tests have turned up positive, and none have been the result of community spread on campus. “There’s a heightened sensitivity here and at other H.B.C.U.s in other parts of the country because of the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on the community,” he said.
Some larger schools with their own testing programs also are keeping rates down. Duke tested every student upon arrival, weeding out some positive cases before they could get onto campus, said a university spokesman, Michael Schoenfeld.
Duke has allowed about 3,000 students — about half of the usual number — to live in campus housing, and has limited off-campus students to campus buildings where they have classes. The sororities and fraternities do not have independent houses, Mr. Schoenfeld said, and are housed in the dorms.
Every student who lives in a dorm or comes onto campus is tested at least once a week, on average, as part of the school’s pool testing surveillance, and athletes in high-risk sports such as football are tested daily, he said.
A few schools have leveraged culture or geography to limit test expenses.
At Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, student exposure to infection is naturally limited by the school’s “block” system of classes, in which students study one subject at a time in groups of 15 for periods of three and a half weeks.
Using $23 rapid antigen tests, which detect viral proteins and produce results in 30 minutes, the school is strategically sampling several hundred people in each 18-day block, including dorm residents, school employees and asymptomatic students with the highest risk of contact, the college’s president, Jonathan Brand, said.