How Universities will Respond to COVID-19
Guest post by Emily Rosen
Who would have ever thought that their spring semester at college would be disrupted and ultimately halted due to a global pandemic? No one could have predicted such an event with as large of consequences as these. Most aspects of normal life have been tremendously altered, and much is uncertain in society. Universities are facing outrage from parents and students alike, as they tirelessly work to find the best solutions with regard to tuition fees and residential education. With the current semester coming to a close for most institutions, it is now time to decide what steps will be taken long-term. The question stands: will college life ever be the same?
In order to create a holistic experience for all of the students, many of the services provided on campus have now been transitioned to online. Appointments made for the guidance center and career services are now scheduled online and held through a video chat platform. This changes the dynamic of speaking to a counselor face-to-face. Not only that, but virtual classes are becoming the new norm. Schools that are particularly involved in the everyday life of students are struggling because they are not able to provide the intimate experience that they value so highly for their students. If residential learning resumes in the fall, many aspects of education as we know it needs to change. Classroom sizes will need to be smaller and there must be regulations enforced to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Even though universities are trying their best to provide the same education they would on campus, professors, parents, and students know this is not the case. Many people are reluctant to spend thousands of dollars on remote education when it is obvious that the students gain more on campus. This factor puts pressure on the individuals paying for college, as well as the universities that have to deal with this issue. As of now, cutting back on non-essential investments seem to be the trend among educational institutions across America. Due to the severity of the current financial crisis, smaller universities may be forced to close permanently or merge with other institutions. On the other hand, large and more well-known colleges are cutting costs by laying off staff, reducing their pay, or diminishing other university traits. Top officials among various colleges are concerned about the return of the students in the fall.
International students are a major topic of interest in this discussion. Individuals who are from America are able to apply for financial aid; however, those who come from abroad cannot receive assistance from the U.S. Government. As COVID-19 affects all countries around the globe, universities worry that attendance from international students will decrease tremendously. This is of concern due to the tuition that is paid by students within this category, as they often pay a higher price than those domestically. Even if students across the world did invest in American education, the difference in time zones provides complications for the students’ success. Not only does this affect the financial situation of institutions, but also their reputation regarding diversity since there will be fewer students that attend from various countries around the world.
With an economic crisis ensuing, parents and students wonder if their respective universities will refund tuition. While some colleges are offering room and board refunds, there is still outrage over this issue, in general. People are fighting for tuition reductions, as remote classes do not seem to hold the same monetary value as those classes that would be held on campus. As of now, no tuition refunds have been seen, but potential discounts in summer courses are being thought of. I strongly believe that once an influential college makes its strategic decision, others will follow.
I hope a summer filled with social distancing protocol will be enough to flatten the curve and proceed with normal life. It is evident that COVID-19 is not only affecting the college experience but also families' lives. With people unemployed, they are unable to provide their loved ones with the resources necessary to live. Not only that, but relatives and friends are dying, and it is not possible to hold the proper funeral arrangements due to the current government regulations. Although these times are difficult and uncertain, everyone needs to take their part in abiding by the rules and staying positive.
So, will college life ever be the same? Although nobody has a definitive answer at this very moment, as each day goes by, the virus will hold less of a place in society. Hopefully, soon, COVID-19 will be a thing of the past, and something that our grandchildren will be reading about in their textbooks during their history class.