What Will Back to Campus Look Like This Year?
As the world has experienced the pandemic, many eyes in America have been on higher education, watching to see how COVID-19 would affect fall semesters across the nation. Campuses have decided whether or not to open back up in August largely on a case-by-base basis, with some universities electing to proceed with business as usual, and other major institutions, like the University of Southern California, holding classes solely online. These choices – and their likely consequences – were covered in a recent NBC article from author Wilson Wong.
After proceeding through spring and summer semesters online, students are already expressing hesitancies about online instruction in the fall for a myriad of reasons. For reasons ranging from lacking campus community to feeling as though the quality of their education has suffered, students are hesitant about another semester in this pattern. There are also concerns around resources and the lack thereof, with some students going without computers, reliable access to WiFi, or stable environments to work from. For students solely learning digitally, these roadblocks can make the difference of being able to complete courses or not. Some universities, such as UCLA, are attempting to remedy this by creating hybridized programs that include some in-person instruction and some distance learning.
Wong reports that, based off of a Chronicle of Higher Education survey, 61% of colleges plan to return to campus, 22% plan to hybridize, and just 8% plan for solely online instruction, standing about equal with the 9% that are undecided thus far. Colleges have varying plans on how to mitigate risk for COVID on campus, ranging from mandatory masks to outdoor classrooms. Despite this, health experts have formally advised against reopening colleges, citing it as being too much of a risk – not just for students, but for the communities they live in as well.
Other efforts to escape the effects of the virus include eliminating any fall breaks, both to prevent travel back and forth from campus and to conclude the semester in a lower number of weeks.
Cuts to programs and reduced occupancy limits of housing and classrooms have left students still paying full tuition feeling frustrated as they pay for systems or resources that are not currently available to them. This comes on the heels of calls for refunds from the spring semester for fees paid for services unused, such as dining halls or recreation centers. This has left students at odds with universities with less resources, who claim that they cannot issue refunds out of a need to continue to pay faculty and staff. Others, like Robert J. Massa out of USC, have written that a reduction in tuition fees could negatively impact a student’s financial aid package, thus costing them more in the long run.
As students return, masks up and laptops open, eyes across the country will be on our nation’s colleges.
Read the full article here.