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COVID-19 College Consequences



The onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic has turned higher education and college students upside-down. As the consequences of this incredibly infectious pathogen trickle down, virtually no aspect of normality has been left untouched. A search for proof of that statement turns up some dramatic reports. That’s what I’d like to look at today.

A Google inquiry for COVID-19 college consequences yields impressive results. If we can imagine COVID-19 as a torrential downpour, the trickle down washes over college presidents first, whose responsibilities include keeping their institutions afloat. The trickle trail continues south to engulf admissions and enrollment administrators, then onto housing, physical plant, athletics, students, parents and alumni. Everyone gets wet.

Of course, like all businesses, the bottom line for higher ed is revenue. The flow of incoming cash lubricates the collegiate machinery and when something happens to stifle the lubrication, the gnashing of gears becomes audible quickly. Cash flows in from enrollments, and the national trend, even before the pandemic breakout, has shown fewer high school students choosing traditional colleges.

Colleges Face Tough Choices

What follows is a brief summary of some of the more pointed articles from my search. When taken as a whole, one might possibly see the logic behind Professor Scott Galloway’s projection that a surprising number of America’s 4,000+ colleges and universities will go out of business in the near future.

First, Andrew DiPietro, writing in Forbes, sums up the situation rather well:

One huge area that COVID-19 is impacting and sowing major confusion is in higher education. Colleges and universities have been thrown into very uncertain waters as they are forced to convert to online-only courses while struggling with a myriad of other issues, especially in the realm of finances. We asked college professors and administrators, counselors, higher education consultants and many other experts in the field of higher education for their views on how COVID-19 is impacting colleges and universities, both currently and in the longer-term

Two significant comments from those interviewed:

  • “The colleges best positioned to survive the financial challenge may be the urban commuter schools. Living at home while attending schools with limited-sized classes may become a much more palatable option for parents afraid to send their children to live in densely populated campus dorms,” said Gil Gibori, CEO and founder of The House Tutoring Lounge
  • “For new students, it’s going to be a mess. I expect that we will see many of the students who were so excited to be accepted a few months ago will either elect to take a gap year. Especially if the school is residential and far enough from home to make it difficult to return if needed,” said John Pryor, founder of Pryor Education Insights

These two points highlight the one-two punch colleges must absorb: (1) the trending cultural change toward commuter schools — community colleges and vocational trade schools, and (2) falling enrollment. As I’ve discussed before, ever-rising college costs are also causing families to rethink their return on investment in this era of increased unemployment. That’s why community college and vocational trade schools fill a broad need now.

CNBC’s Abigail Hess notes that Some students are considering dropping out of college because of coronavirus. These are the kinds of stories that strike fear into the hearts of college administrators. Hess cites one example under the heading of “Worsened financial realities”:

Taylor Hill, 22, is a sophomore communications major at Indiana University South Bend. She lives alone and was working 35 hours a week as a cashier at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore to support herself through her degree. But since being laid off in mid-March when the store closed due to the pandemic, Hill has been forced to evaluate if she is financially able to continue her education.

“I’ve got at least $6,000 in debt, which isn’t too bad, but I’m still a sophomore so I’ve got a couple more years to go. It’s hard to say if going back would be financially responsible because I don’t have anything in savings. I was working and living paycheck to paycheck,” Hill tells CNBC Make It. “I honestly am not entirely sure how I’m going to dig myself out of this financial hole I found myself in.”

She says this concern is shared by her peers. “Just about all of my friends are laid off right now, so a lot of us are in the same situation,” Hill says

Hill brings up another threat to colleges: student loan debt. Even though she has “at least” $6,000 of debt at the (hopeful) midpoint of her college career, she may not be aware of “front-loading” financial aid. That’s where colleges give attractive aid packages in the first year or two then systematically diminish their generosity during upperclass years, thus increasing debt for students whose financial resources haven’t improved or worsened, such as Taylor Hill’s have.

Could Liberal Arts Departments Suffer?

One of the hardest hit areas is liberal arts. The loss of revenue sometimes requires the elimination of entire degree programs. Classical liberal arts, frequently underestimated as a credential for “real-world” employment, are among the first areas to be scrutinized when administrators start cutting.

Another CNBC reporter, Jessica Dickler, documents this fact in her report Colleges cut academic programs in the face of budget shortfalls due to Covid-19:

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, some things may never be the same. A liberal arts education could be one of themIn early June, the University of Alaska system announced it will cut 39 academic departments in all, including degree programs in sociology, creative writing, chemistry and environmental science

Thirty-nine departments! That would be enough to scuttle some liberal arts colleges. Smaller schools are also making sweeping cuts.

Elmira College in New York said it is eliminating a number of academic programs, including American studies, classical studies, economics, international studies, music, philosophy and religion, and Spanish and Hispanic studies, in addition to cutting several athletic teams and reducing staff by 20 percent

The increasing trend of technical and vocational education is providing a safe harbor of sorts for some schools that recognize students’ needs for hands-on skills rather than esoteric knowledge. For example, look at how Hiram College is reacting to the changing landscape.

Hiram College, just outside of Cleveland, eliminated several majors, including religion, art history and music, in favor of an increased emphasis on technology and programs in sport management, international studies and crime, law and justice

And what would college be without sports? The potency of the COVID-19 impact has reached even the highest levels of collegiate athletics, as Insider reveals: Cincinnati, Stanford, and 17 other Division I schools are permanently eliminating dozens of sports programs in an unexpected loss from the pandemic.

As of this article’s writing [July 8, 2020], 19 Division I schools have cut at least one of its teams since the pandemic began. In total, those 19 schools — only one of which belongs to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or Southeastern Conference that comprise college sports’ Power Five — have permanently cut 57 teams between them. Baseball, softball, wrestling, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s golf are among those cut

Here is the comment that quickly caught my eye. It reflects colleges’ instinctive sense for revenue, regardless of how many degree programs may have to be cut:

Predictably, not one school has chosen to discontinue its football or men’s basketball team as a money-saving measure

So, to complete my title’s alliteration, COVID-19 college consequences are considerable. Unfortunately, as we are about to enter August, I think we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg.


By: Dave Berry
Title: COVID-19 College Consequences
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 28 Jul 2020 14:03:48 +0000

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New Study Reveals 1,000 Students’ Opinions on Returning to College



The decisions that college students and university administrators have to make about returning to campus this fall are rooted in complicated feelings about online education, COVID-19 and cost, among other issues. But many students aren’t confident that their classmates will follow the appropriate social distancing and mask-wearing protocols required to keep everyone safe, a new report reveals.

The study from Real Estate Witch (REW) includes “new research … on how 1,000 students feel about going back to school and how 100 US universities are handling the COVID-19 pandemic,” REW says. When I initially saw the study, I was intrigued by the combined keywords “students,” “universities” and “COVID-19,” all of which occupy a place of honor in my column’s wheelhouse these days, so I dug deeper.

What I found was, essentially, a comprehensive snapshot of student attitudes about what’s happening right now, on the cusp of the 2020-2021 academic year. The study found that 72 percent of college students want to return to campus this fall, but 86 percent are concerned about their health as a result of going back to school.

This has led many students to consider online classes, but 81 percent believe in-person classes provide a better education than online courses. As a result, 90 percent think online courses should cost less than in-person classes. Just three percent of the college administrators surveyed, however, say their colleges plan to reduce tuition this fall. No wonder students are distressed.

Students Worry About Quality of Online Classes

One of the first things I do when scanning a study is to check the methodology to get some perspective on how the numbers were generated and where they came from. This is how REW did it:

We surveyed 1,000 undergraduate students in the U.S. who were enrolled in college courses during the spring/summer 2020 semesters and have enrolled for the fall 2020 semester using an online survey platform between July 23 and 26, 2020.

University data were collected by searching 100 randomly selected university sites. The colleges were all four-year establishments, split evenly between public and private and split evenly among the four major Census regions in the United States (West, Midwest, Northeast and South). These data were collected between July 23 and 28, 2020.

You can view the numerical study results here and the university data here.

Here are the main areas covered:

  • Students Are Stuck in Rental Agreements
  • Students Are Missing Out on Resume-Building Opportunities
  • Students Struggle to Keep or Find Jobs to Pay for School
  • Parents Are Losing Their Jobs, Impacting Students’ Finances
  • Job Losses Lead to Steep Increase in Debt
  • Students Are Worried About Online Education Quality
  • Students Are Unsure Colleges Can Ensure Student Health
  • Students Trust Themselves, Not Peers, to Socially Distance

I’ll highlight portions of only the last three areas, so if you’re interested in finding out what a thousand students think about all of this, please read the entire report.

As more and more colleges — that as recently as June touted their in-person teaching plans for Fall semester — shift to online classes (Goucher College is a good example), students and their families are becoming increasingly concerned about the quality of their education, and those attitudes are reflected in the REW study:

In order to afford continued education, colleges are making significant changes to their campuses, classrooms and course formats come fall. Although nearly 30 percent of college students enrolled in at least one online course each semester before COVID-19, students are wary of shifting to all or mostly online courses …

… Only 34 percent of students said they’re moderately or extremely confident that their college can provide the same quality of education as they had in previous years. Part of that lack of confidence stems from their beliefs about online courses: 74 percent think online courses are more difficult and provide a subpar education (81 percent) compared to in-person courses.

Nearly 90 percent of students agreed that online courses should cost less than traditional, in-person classes. But our investigation into 100 colleges across the US indicated very few (about three percent) plan to reduce tuition in the fall despite the fact that most are introducing more online and hybrid courses to their catalogs.

Contrary to students’ desires, more colleges (four percent) are planning to increase tuition this year as a result of COVID-19 than are planning to decrease

That last sentence will cause some severe heartburn for those affected. Speaking of health issues, student concerns are critical:

31 percent of students said they’re extremely concerned about their health as a result of going back to school, while only about 14 percent said they weren’t concerned at all.

Health concerns have students questioning whether they should return to school: 39 percent said they only want to return if their college plans to take precautionary measures, while 28 percent said they want to only take online courses in lieu of returning to campus

Beyond limiting time in the classroom, colleges are also taking additional measures to ensure students aren’t inadvertently spreading the virus:

  • 78 percent of colleges mentioned required mask-wearing on campus
  • 33 percent said students will be required to be tested before entering campus and/or regularly throughout the year
  • 29 percent have required symptom checks/monitoring to enter campus
  • 19 percent are participating in contact tracing
  • 9 percent are requiring students to quarantine before returning to campus or if they test positive.
  • Other common measures include additional cleaning, social distancing throughout campus and in classrooms, and take-out food only (i.e., closed cafeterias for in-person dining)

Despite these precautionary plans, 17 percent of students aren’t confident at all in their colleges’ ability to enforce the measures, and 12 percent said they’re not at all confident that their university will take responsibility for ensuring student safety

Students are just about as confident in their peers’ willingness to participate in social distancing measures as they are in their college’s ability to enforce them.

About 18 percent said they’re not confident at all in other students’ participation in social distancing and mask-wearing measures on campus — only 17 percent were extremely confident.

In contrast, the students we surveyed are confident in their own compliance: 44 percent reported they’re extremely likely to avoid social gatherings if campus resumes in-person classes

These are important insights, in my view. The big-picture takeaway, at least from this study’s sampling, should be that students are seriously concerned about the quality and cost of online classes, although their specific resentment of hiked tuition was left unqueried. Most importantly, they’re quite anxious about their health in on-campus situations. Their lack of confidence about classmates’ safety practices is not reassuring.

Obviously, colleges have been thrown a huge curveball for 2020, but students and their families have been thrown a bigger one because of the financial (value) implications of all this. My past higher education “sea change” prediction is now in full bloom, and all it took to start the devolution was a 125-nanometer-sized particle called COVID-19.


By: Dave Berry
Title: New Study Reveals 1,000 Students’ Opinions on Returning to College
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 06 Aug 2020 13:23:10 +0000

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New Tool Helps Simplify Merit Aid Search



When it comes to paying for college, most families are looking for as much financial assistance as possible, but it can be challenging to determine which schools are more likely to offer merit aid. Thanks to a new free tool, that may be easier for students and their parents to investigate.

Neeta Vallab founded MeritMore after going through the admissions process with her own daughter. “Everywhere we looked, we heard ‘Don’t worry about the sticker price, most families don’t pay that,’ but when we realized we wouldn’t qualify for need-based aid, it started looking like we might have to pay the full sticker price, which was daunting” she said.

Then she discovered the option of attending a college that offers merit aid, which consists of funds that colleges disburse at their own discretion to attract students who are high performers, have particular talents, or meet other institutional needs that the college may be seeking. “Merit aid includes about $8 billion to $10 billion that colleges use to attract the type of students they want,” Vallab said. “This is a bigger pool than private scholarships, and the money doesn’t have to be paid back.”

In addition, she adds, merit aid is typically renewable, so students can usually get it for all four years of college if they meet the guidelines, which may include requirements like maintaining a particular GPA. “In this way, merit aid is also better than private scholarships, which are generally one-shot awards,” Vallab notes. “There are exceptions of course, but those tend to be rare.”

The problem, she found, was that the process of finding a school where her daughter’s stats might qualify her for merit aid was cumbersome. “I sat in on a workshop where someone showed us a process of which schools are likely to offer your child merit aid and there were eight steps involved, including creating a variety of spreadsheets. I’m a software engineer so inherently I wanted to simplify that. I built myself a quick tool that we could use and share with friends and family, which cut the steps down significantly.” That tool later became MeritMore, she said.

Enter Stats, Get Merit Estimates

To use the tool, students will visit the site and enter their unweighted GPA and SAT or ACT score, as well as the geographic area where they’d like to attend college. Then the platform automatically returns results showing which schools are likely to offer merit money, as well as the average amount. The photo below shows the results that were returned after plugging in an ACT score of 33 and an unweighted GPA of 3.9, using the New England and Rocky Mountain regions as potential locations.

Merit scholarship search

She designed the tool using the formula that many schools utilize when calculating merit aid, which typically involves offering merit money to students whose stats are in the top quartile of applicants. “The whole idea is to guide parents to better financial fit decision,” she said.

College is one of the most expensive investments you make in a lifetime outside of buying your home,” she said. “So I thought about incorporating some of the tools you’d find on the better real estate search sites so users of MeritMore can slice and dice the data to find those financial fit gems.”

Site Also Offers Real-World Data

In addition to using institutional data, MeritMore offers a separate tool where families can compare the aid they are offered with those of other families. “So far, we have about 2,000 records of actual offer data and that’s all free to access and is based on what parents enter,” Vallab says. Students and their families can compare their expected family contribution and stats to other students who have similar numbers and see what offers they received. “We’re trying to bring more transparency to the black box of how aid is disbursed by colleges,” Vallab said.

In addition, MeritMore offers a third free tool that helps families stay on top of all the tasks and deadlines required during the admissions process. “We have an application task manager and on one screen it has all the tasks and deadlines for all the schools you enter,” Vallab notes. “You can remove or add tasks and it tracks everything as you complete it and gives you a status of how far along you are.”


By: Torrey Kim
Title: New Tool Helps Simplify Merit Aid Search
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 05 Aug 2020 14:10:47 +0000

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How to Get the Most Out of Virtual College Tours



Whether you’ve been talking to your school counselor, your parents, friends, parents’ friends, friends’ parents, or any other combination thereof, you’ve probably been told that it’s a good idea to visit the campuses of the colleges you’re strongly considering before committing to go there. After all, what seems like a dream college on paper to other students can sometimes feel like a nightmare to others. Trust me — any time you might save now is going right out the window if you have to transfer to another school later on!

However, the reality of the situation is that we can’t always travel to every school. Distance is a consideration, and with that, the cost of traveling. It’s one thing to check out the local schools — and you should always start there, just so you have a sense of what to look for once you start getting further away — but it’s another to visit an overseas campus, or one thousands of miles away. Colleges understand this, which is why many do their best to offer online tours of their campus. They’re no substitute for the real thing, but they’re better than nothing at all, and now more than ever, with COVID-19 temporarily shuttering many physical locations and rescheduling travel plans, it’s worth checking them out.

To aid you, we’ve gathered most of the colleges from our Best 385 Colleges guidebook at our handy online hub, and you can scour other university homepages, use College Confidential’s Virtual Tour Database or reach out to other colleges directly to see if they have similar offerings. That said, just because these are online tours, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do any work! Here’s how to get the most out of your virtual college tours.

Take Notes and Screenshots

The one advantage to an online tour is that it’s much easier to record your thoughts than when you’re trying to keep pace with a group of other people. Feel free to take a screenshot of any image that catches your fancy, or bookmark the page if it has a direct URL. Also make sure you interact with images as much as you can. Some may be static photos, but you may encounter some panoramic views that you can rotate around.

  • Tip 1: Write down your first impressions and then, later on, revisit them and see if you still feel the same way.
  • Tip 2: Always come up with at least one question to ask. This ensures that you’re more actively looking at these images than you would be otherwise.

Maintain the Big Picture

Many online tours will show you both a street-level view and a bird’s-eye map of the location. This helps you to get perspective that is missing from a remote tour, where you’re not physically walking between locations.

  • Tip 3: Record the distance between common places on campus and replicate that walk in your own neighborhood. It’s important that you know what that distance feels like — small things like the hike from your prospective dorm to the dining hall can add up when you have to do them multiple times each day.
  • Tip 4: For extra credit here, check the weather listings for that campus, or try to find the average highs and lows over each semester. If at all possible, try to take your walks at different times of the year. If you’re not normally a cold-weather person but you’re set on a northern college, you might be looking for a smaller, more centrally located campus.

Get a Second Opinion

When you’re on an actual tour, you don’t have to assume that everything you’re being told is accurate. That’s because you can ask other students on the campus what they think and ask follow-up questions of your in-person tour guide (as opposed to a virtual host). But guess what? You can still do that with these online, remote tours. It just means that you’re going to have to reach out to students, alumni, and admissions officers through email.

  • Tip 5: Always reach out to an admissions officer with specific questions. Not only will this get you some much needed clarity on the things that the virtual tour cannot show you, but will also help you make an impression with the school. It may seem like nothing to send an email, but that one little action can go a long way in helping to set you apart from other students, especially if you ask specific questions that can’t simply be answered on their website.
  • Tip 6: Though it may be a little more difficult, try to reach out directly to current students or, barring that, alumni. (This is what we’ve done with our book The Best 385 Colleges, which is filled with insider observations from current students.) While this sort of outreach won’t win you any points with the admissions officials, it will provide you with the sort of firsthand knowledge about the unseen pros and cons of the school and the curriculum that you can’t get from simply browsing pictures online.

The moral of this story is very simple: Even if you can’t physically visit all the schools you’re considering, that doesn’t mean you should skimp out on your research — it just means you have to get more creative about the ways in which you gather it. For instance, consider using an online map service to get street-level views of any nearby off-campus hotspots as well! There’s no need to make assumptions about what you’ll have access to once you make this commitment. Take action to get the answers you need (we’ll help as much as we can).

By: Rob Franek
Title: How to Get the Most Out of Virtual College Tours
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 16 Apr 2020 15:59:18 +0000

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