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Fall Semester 2020 And Beyond: Here’s What Students Are Thinking



I read a surprising statement in an article yesterday: Nearly half of high school seniors say they’re considering a gap year because of the pandemic. Writers Hillary Hoffower and Juliana Kaplan note that almost half (43 percent) of high school seniors who haven’t yet committed to a college are considering a gap year, a recent LendEDU survey found. Also, students are willing to wait for a full college experience: They don’t want to pay for Zoom classes or experience deserted campus life.

This student mindset isn’t hard to understand. College and high school students were summarily dismissed from their schools in mid-March and have been relegated to online classes since then. In general, their dislike for that style of learning is negative, to say the least. Consequently, the quality of education has taken a nosedive, according to some sources.

Online Classes Get Low Marks

Two such sources are Campus Reform’s Students want campuses reopened, lament ‘quality’ of online classes, and Story Bistro’s The Truth About Why You Aren’t Learning Anything in Your Online Classes. Campus Reform asked students at the University of Florida about reopening college and university campuses after the coronavirus pandemic and found that most favored reopening, but confirmed their dislike for online learning. For full details about their dislikes, check the video on the Campus Reform link.

Story Bistro goes into some depth about why students feel that online classes come up short from a learning perspective. Some reasons are obvious, others less so, as Téa Silvestre Godfrey observes:

– There’s no teacher/student eye contact. Even when you do get to interact with the instructor in an online environment, it’s usually via a webinar. And all you get to do is type a comment into the chat box (if you’re there when the thing is done live). People underestimate the power of eye contact in building a relationship. And online instructors especially need to think about this stuff if they want their students to engage with them and the course materials. Eye contact keeps us accountable. It’s an unspoken method of saying “I’m here. I’m showing up”…

– There are too many distractions. Being online is a rabbit hole for most of us. The constant desire to check one’s email or see what’s new on Facebook makes it difficult at best to focus on learning. Only the most disciplined of us will shut down the other windows and concentrate just on the work in front of us. In a real classroom, most of us would be embarrassed to be seen checking our email during a class discussion … But if we aren’t fully present and focused during a class meeting, nothing that’s said will stick.

– There’s no requirement to participate. When you sign up for most online courses — whether they’re delivered on-demand or not — nobody asks you to leave if you don’t participate. In fact, nobody even notices or cares if you don’t show up for a discussion. You could be dead on the side of the road for all they know … as long as you paid your fee, you’re in. And if it’s an ongoing membership type thing, they’ll happily take your money until you shut it off. Kind of like that gym membership you once had.

– There’s no small group work or buddy system. In college courses, I always found it slightly annoying when the professor would have us work together on a project. I didn’t fully appreciate then the power of collaborative learning … It did so many things in one fell swoop: added another layer of accountability; allowed stronger students to help mentor the weaker ones; pushed folks beyond their comfort zone, allowing them to develop leadership skills

– There’s not enough critical thinking. Many online courses promise to teach you someone’s “blueprint” or “roadmap.” Just follow these step-by-step instructions and you, too, will create a six-figure business in just 90 days! The instructor rarely asks you to think about their process as a starting point. To ask questions like, Will this work for my audience and my business? If we aren’t encouraged to ask questions, we don’t really learn anything

Adding my personal perspective, I would zero in on “no eye contact.” Body language has a lot to do with communication, and facial expressions say a lot about what’s going on inside someone’s head. I recall college classes where a professor’s body and face were full of animated energy and their movement around the classroom or lecture hall created a kind of electrical tension that energized the class, inspiring much back and forth between students and teacher.

Conversely, some teaching assistants under whom I studied exhibited a kind of machine-like separation from the material, delivering it in droning monotones and rarely establishing interaction with the other carbon-based units in the room. This is something that teachers will have to overcome to earn enthusiasm in the online format. If you want an ideal example of how exciting and engaging online learning can be, check out some of the offerings from The Great Courses. Here, you will find the model that all college professors and TAs should be following, one that engenders the joy of learning.

Gap Year Plans on the Rise

Perhaps the main fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic for current and about-to-be first-year college students is the significant number who will opt for a gap year. Their attitudes about having to face another distasteful semester or more of online classes is the driving force behind getting away from being homebound tied to a computer, rather than learning within a classical college experience. Most are betting that getting away from the current “extreme safety” trappings of college today will return them a year from now to the “normal” college experience they crave. I tend to agree with that strategy.

Speaking of normal college experiences, some prospective gap year students are being motivated by their visions of what campus life may be like this fall or longer even if their college does bring back students. It will be a new and strange reality.

Juliana Kaplan, writing in early May for Business Insider, anticipates this when she pictures The end of campus life: What colleges will look like in the fall, from Zoom classes to deserted quads and sports stadiums. She projects that when — and if — colleges reopen in the fall, campus is probably going to look very different. Some schools are planning to reopen, but will still have, for better or worse, remote learning, while others are considering a hybrid approach. Colleges will likely have fewer students in general, which means that social life for students who do return in the fall will be far from what it used to be. At least that’s what college administrators hope to realize.

Kaplan cites some specific approaches colleges are considering, but keep in mind that plans are fluid and can change before Fall 2020 commitments are made:

Harvard says it will open in fall 2020, but is preparing “for a scenario in which much or all learning will be conducted remotely.” Princeton has asked its faculty to prepare for the fall under the “assumption that their classes will be online.”

University of Missouri System President Mun Choi has become “less optimistic” about a full reopening in the fall, according to the Columbia Missourian. In Michigan, Oakland University will have a “hybrid” approach of in-person and virtual instruction, Bridge Michigan reports.

And, for the schools that do open, life will look different. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Brown University President Christina Paxson wrote that she envisions empty stadium stands, spaced patrons at campus performances, and Zoom parties

Zoom parties? How appealing does that sound? New high school graduates who have been accepted to college and have made the gap year decision are probably looking to avoid wasting an entire year of college where the following kinds of experiences, as expressed by past college students, aren’t going to happen:

– “If you live in a dorm, it is like being at a massive sleepover with all your friends, every night. People are just a few doors down and always looking to hang out. Therefore, it takes profound skill to juggle both academics and a social life.”

– “Usually on the weekends, we get together and cook dinner because eating out in the city is expensive. We make a lot of extra food so we all have leftovers throughout the week. Other regular activities we do together include going to concerts, plays and poetry readings.”

– “We watch TV. We hit a tennis ball around the grounds with a golf club, keeping track of our scores with targets in mind. We go to a frat party every couple of weeks.”

– “What I wish I’d done differently more than anything is hang out with my guy friends more often. … Last year, I hung out more with my girlfriend and a few of her friends … than with all the guys in my hall.”

Again, if administrators have their way, Fall 2020 and likely the entire 2020 to 2021 academic year will not allow for the above and many other traditional college experiences. Online classes, social distancing, frequent hand washing, temperature checks, COVID-19 testing, quarantines, masks, gloves and other protocols are promising to make the upcoming college year extremely challenging, if not one to forget. What do you think about that?


By: Dave Berry
Title: Fall Semester 2020 And Beyond:
Here’s What Students Are Thinking
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2020 13:17:30 +0000

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Apply Online For Student Loans

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Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid



Many families are facing new financial challenges in light of the coronavirus emergency, and College Confidential has fielded dozens of questions on this topic recently. To address those queries, we hosted a webinar on April 9 entitled “Paying for College Amid Changes Due to the Impact of COVID-19.”

During the event, moderated by Aaron Murphy, manager of learning and development with Inside Track, the following panelists offered their perspectives on the issue:

  • Denise Trusty, director of financial aid with Morehead State University
  • Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz, associate vice president of college partnerships with RaiseMe
  • Amy Nelson, director of sales at International Scholarship and Tuition Services
  • Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank.

Check out the following topics that the panelists discussed, along with their views of how things may unfold amid the financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

Family Finances Changed? Contact Your Schools

If you plan to start college in the fall as a freshman — or return to school as an existing student — and your financial situation has changed since you applied for financial aid, you should contact the colleges on your list immediately. Financial aid departments can consider appeals for more money, but must base these decisions on each individual student’s situation, Trusty said.

“I know with Morehead State, where I work, we will be doing professional judgement calls on all students who say they’ve been affected,” she noted. “We will reach out to those students to see what we can do to help them maybe obtain additional funding, additional grants, scholarships, whatever they would be eligible for. We do professional judgment all the time for our students, because things happen all the time. This year will be an especially large amount of those, I’m sure, but those are up to individual schools to make that call for their students.”

In addition, she added, the Department of Education has set aside over $6 billion for additional grants and scholarships that the universities will be able to use. “Currently, I don’t know how that’s all going to play into this,” Trusty said. “So that will be up to each individual university on how they lay those out. I know it will be beneficial, I just don’t know how available that will be to each student.”

Keep in mind that schools are accustomed to reviewing financial aid appeals, and they all have processes in place for to do so. “It is really, really important to know that schools typically leave a budget from 10 percent to 20 percent or so of their financial aid dollars for what would be called a professional judgment bucket,”Javice said. “Therefore, there is additional money to be had, and it’s up to you to request it. You should approach your school as soon as you know you might need more money, and be prepared to show supporting documentation demonstrating how your finances are different from when you filed your FAFSA initially. This might require proof of a job loss, medical bills, a cut in pay or another such issue, Javice said.

In addition, if another school gave you a better financial offer, you can petition the school that gave you the lower offer for more money, Javice noted. “This typically works better for private institutions versus public state schools, given the fact that they have a little bit more discrepancy and more dollars to put to work in terms of a tuition discount,” she added. “This is solely up to the school on a case by case basis.” In some cases, the money is distributed on a first come, first serve timeline, so don’t wait if you know you need more aid.

Although financial aid can be a stressful topic, try not to be emotional when you request more money, Javice added. You’ll get a lot further by having organized documentation to present than you would by getting angry or upset, she noted.

Consider Outside Scholarships

The coronavirus situation has changed plans not only for incoming freshmen, but also for current college students, Nelson said. “Organizations are stepping up and trying to find ways to provide additional scholarship opportunities this year,” she noted. Students should be proactive in seeking those options.

Raise Me is offering new micro-scholarships for students who are seeking additional funding sources, Kalinkewicz said. In addition, she encourages students to ask colleges for more time to make decisions, even if the school hasn’t extended its deposit process. You can always try and request additional time to get your financial aid package right, she noted.

Finding more money is not relegated to younger students, Javice added. “Adult learners comprise the biggest group of people actually going to college today,” she noted. It’s very common for people to be seeking new types of skills and going back to college to gain additional degrees. Financial aid is available to adult learners, and they may even get aid to pay such costs as rent, she added. In addition, they can seek outside scholarships or employer-matching funds to pay for their educations.

Not Necessarily Too Late to File FAFSA

Students who didn’t file a FAFSA already should do that as soon as possible so you can get access to financial aid funds, Javice said. Federal FAFSA deadlines are usually in June, but states make their own deadlines for state aid. Some states, such as New Jersey, have moved their deadlines back for this year, so check to make sure you stay on top of your deadlines.

And if you file for financial aid and you decide you don’t want it, you can always decline the financial offer or portions of that offer, Nelson said. Your best bet is to apply so you can take what you need and decline any amounts you don’t need. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should apply anyway because you could be surprised at what you’re offered. “You really need to complete that [FAFSA] process every year,” Nelson said. “The process is very easy, and jobs can come and go. It’s your safety net and you want to make sure you’ve completed it. It makes it a whole lot easier when situations like this arise.”

Some colleges also have supplemental applications to fill out for particular types of aid, so always reach out to your financial aid office for information on which documentation you should be completing, Kalinkewicz said.

Could Families — Not Schools — Be in the Driver’s Seat?

Because many merit scholarships are based on test scores and GPAs, some high school juniors are concerned that they won’t have access to those in the coming year. With test dates being canceled and grades moving to pass/fail, they fear they won’t meet the criteria to earn such scholarships.

“It’s clear to me that colleges and universities know the extraordinary circumstances we’re under,” Nelson said. “All schools are leaning forward and considering all options as the situation develops. I would continue to encourage juniors to stay engaged and stay informed.” You should also watch to see what happens with test dates, she said. The ACT and SAT dates could change, and some schools may forego the need for a test score altogether, she added.

In addition, some merit scholarships that have traditionally been based on test scores may become test optional, Kalinkewicz noted.

Keep in mind that in many cases, families are in the driver’s seat rather than having the colleges be in charge, Javice said. Some schools have lost revenue and are very eager for students right now, “so if you are scared because you thought you could never get into a specific school from an admission criteria standpoint, this is your year to stretch, this is your year to think about the schools that are your reach category and go for it, because schools need the money and need the students. So the power that used to be in an admissions office is in you, the student or the family’s hands,” she said.

She also advises juniors to request application waivers from schools to save the $50 to $100 or so per application that they would normally pay. The schools may say no, but it won’t hurt to ask, she advised. “Persistence is key when dealing with schools,” Javice noted.

Federal Student Loans Payment Suspended

As many families are aware, payments on federal student loans are automatically suspended from March 13 through September 30, 2020 thanks to the government’s CARES Act. This is essential to keep in mind, particularly for families that have multiple children in various stages of the college process.

“You will stop paying your loans and you will have zero interest from now until September 30, and that’s important for parents to know,” Nelson said regarding existing federal student loans. “If you had an auto draft, the auto draft has been shut off and will not continue. You can, however, continue to make those payments if you’d like, and any interest you had before March 13, once that interest is paid up, all your payments will go directly toward your principal.” She advises families with federally-backed loans to check with their loan servicing agents, because they have a lot of information for both parent and student borrowers on how the CARES Act will impact payments for the next six months.

Student Job Gone? Colleges Might Help

For students who expect to earn money via part-time or full-time work to pay for college, but can’t do so due to the coronavirus, colleges may have resources to help. “There are many colleges and universities that have put together emergency grants for students to cover expenses that they were maybe not expecting because of COVID-19,” Nelson said. “They are making accommodations to try and make up for that lost income for students.”

Trusty said Morehead State is continuing to pay students who were on federal work-study. “If they had a job, we are still paying them right now as if they were working, although they are not. In the summer, those funds will be flipped over to emergency grant funds. So we will make sure that our students are covered and can live as if they were employed with the work-study position.”

Some colleges have even made remote work available to students, Kalinkewicz added. Therefore, contact your financial aid office to determine if any accommodations are available to make up for lost student income whenever possible.

Consider Other Options to Save

If you are seeking ways to save money on college, you should also consider other resources, whether that means less expensive colleges, in-state options or potentially transferring down the road, Janice said. You can also save money by taking classes at a community college to pay a lower cost for your credits that can be transferred to a four-year college later.

“If you have that target institution in mind — maybe you’ve already been admitted there but your family has determined a year of community college will really help stretch things further — work on articulation agreements or a plan so you are taking the right classes that actually have the ability to transfer toward the degree you want at your target institution, not necessarily just as credit,” Kalinkewicz said.

In addition, many colleges offer merit aid for transfer students, she added. So always look for every potential financial aid and scholarship resource to best maximize your package and allow your dollars to stretch as far as possible.

Resource: To review the entire hour-long webinar, you can watch the replay here.

Share Your Thoughts

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!

By: Torrey Kim
Title: Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2020 15:22:20 +0000

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