The pandemic hit during the latter half of the second academic semester in early 2020.
Now, as fall approaches, colleges and universities are having to make tough decisions about how they will reopen for the new school year.
Despite the hopes of both students and faculty, the possibility of full, in-person reopenings are beginning to wane. Coronavirus rates are spiking again, and campuses full of students and staff now seem ludicrous.
Here are some of the new ways of interacting with others that colleges will be practicing in the new school year.
Less Dense Housing
Some colleges are opting to go with fully virtual classes this fall. That means no students will be allowed to room and board on campus, which means these institutions face significant loss in revenue from housing. Others are finding ways to reduce the congestion of dormitories and provide quarantine housing if necessary.
Suites that were once built to house three and four students are now being downsized to house one or two students. Housing priority may be given to first-year students, enhancing the draw for new students to enroll rather than wait for another year before signing up for classes.
While most students still prefer physical textbooks, digital textbooks have been poised to gain popularity for several years. There are many advantages to digital textbooks.
It can come with less of a financial burden for students, as many colleges are considering a flat rate fee that would be included in the students’ tuition.
Staff at colleges wouldn’t need to stock physical textbooks, which takes time and resources to distribute to students, and the lower cost would give increased accessibility to all students.
Taking fully online classes certainly promotes social distancing, keeping students and faculty safe and healthy while they learn, but not all students prefer to learn in this manner.
Distractions at home and a general lack of focus while sitting in front of a laptop can be a make or break part of their decision whether to enroll this fall. Universities with top dollar tuition rates may see a decline in enrollment as students opt for more affordable, long-standing universities that have been fully online for many years now.
Classes aren’t the only thing going online this fall. In an effort to promote social distancing and allow on-campus classes to continue, colleges and universities are attempting to reduce or eliminate waiting lines. Tools like campus appointment scheduling apps allow higher education institutions to prevent crowding in waiting areas.
Virtual queues make sure that students are notified of their appointment time and any updates in real time, so they can wait anywhere other than in a line. Not only will these systems improve student satisfaction, they’ll help keep students socially distanced, preventing the spread of disease.
Fewer International Students
Norms regarding traveling have been completely overhauled during the pandemic. Travel restrictions have been imposed, and some don’t want to leave their home country for fear of not being able to return. International students coming to the U.S. are also looking for an interactive college experience, not a fully online version.
Colleges and universities often rely on the full tuition price tag from international student tuition rates to make up for discounted rates supplied to students with residency or financial aid status. This dip in income for colleges, combined with other financial losses will leave many institutions seeking all the help they can get from government relief programs.
Despite relief provided by COVID-19 government aid programs, many higher education institutions will be forced to make up for revenue loss by cutting jobs.
From janitorial and restaurant work, to staff and faculty, no one is safe when a department’s budget is tightened. Fewer students on campus mean less staff is needed to provide services for them.
Colleges Closing Doors
In the coming years, we will also see colleges closing their doors altogether. Before the pandemic, experts had foreseen that dropping enrollment numbers and an aging population would lead to the ‘enrollment crunch’.
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Now with the coronavirus speeding things up drastically, it’s likely that this enrollment crunch will happen much quicker than was originally anticipated. Some institutions may merge or close their doors permanently.
Until a solid vaccine is developed and effectively distributed to the population, schools will continue to struggle financially. In the process, students will also suffer from having fewer options as the majority of colleges remain with virtual classes.
Of course, we are all hopeful that normal, pre-pandemic methods of learning will return soon enough, but until then, we will have to make the best of our new normal and adopt new practices that promote the safety and health of all.
Image Credit: COVID-19 changing the way students engage by envato.com
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