Insider Reports from Closed-Door Covid Planning Meetings
"College Covid Spread Model"
In an ‘average’ week just going to class at Cornell, the ‘average’ student will cross paths with 500 students. That is just in class and going to class. This 500 doesn’t include contact in dorms, gyms, clubs, or food halls and cafeterias. The college experience is about meeting and sharing ideas in a close-knit community. Covid undermines one of the very best aspects of going to college.
Freshmen and sophomores tend to be in larger classes, so they will come into contact with more students. Stopping huge, interdisciplinary classes would help, but surprisingly very little.
Leaving large lecture halls for small classes with distancing would help a little more. But that leaves contact in dorms, dining halls, gyms, passageways, clubs, etc.
Research originally done to find ways to maximize student contact and the opportunities for the lively exchange of ideas is now being turned into data that can be used to minimize contact on the return to to campus. Sociologists Kim Weeden and Benjamin Cornwell have published this information in a working paper based on their social networking analytics, now proving valuable in ‘college re-opening’ planning. Their working paper can be viewed at osf.io/6kuet/.
Test Optional Colleges
With the Covid disruption, more colleges and universities are going test optional. Go to www.fairtest.org for updates. But the SAT and ACT may still be needed for certain departments and for merit scholarships. Standardized tests were lessening in importance before Covid. This may speed that trend. Check your college.
Tests May Be Needed for Merit Money
Although a college may go test optional, students may still need standardized college test scores (SAT, ACT, IB) to qualify for merit scholarships. Some are not accepting AP test scores this year while others may allow more college credit. Check with college.
Fall k-12 & College Plans--What does a week back look like
Social distancing means small classes. Students may go to school in shifts. Morning, evening, night, weekend, twice a week. And buses making 4 trips as students need a row each.
Elementary school children are being assessed as needing teacher contact. But this may mean Group A attends Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday, etc.
Fall CollegeNumbers Drop
Early May is showing a 25% drop in college attendance for the fall overall. Students to switch colleges to those nearer home & community colleges.
The trend is to select a college closer to home (not the more elite college far away), about 25% are choosing community college or professional certificates for the fall, not the planned 4 yr.
Fall '20 Applications Re-open, You can still apply for fall
Because many are choosing to avoid college in the fall, many colleges have re-opened applications. Re-apply to that favorite college, or one nearby.
Colleges may give you a quick answer and/or ask for an immediate deposit. Many are also offering these newly vacant spots to waitlist students.
Waitlist students are also being contacted, but again, often deposits are needed within 24 hours.
Because of the attendance drop, it is worth re-bargaining your tuition. Some colleges will grant credit for APs when none was given previously. Colleges would rather get some tuition money than have a student defer, take a year off, or go somewhere cheaper. The college has accepted you so bargaining won't hurt. But remember the college transition to online and health and safety changes for fall are very costly.
U of Arizona talks of 60K students on campus in fall with testing, tracking, etc, Are you prepared to be confined in the Covid dorm for a month when your roommate tests positive?
Other colleges plan to allow Covid students stay in dorms, but avoid the dining halls and classrooms.
If back on campus, classes will still be offered online, so the sick can work from their room.
online Classes made Harder but being adjusted
Students have noted that teachers made classes harder when they moved them online quickly. Perhaps to show online could be 'serious' and great education too. Administrators at many college and high schools are trying to fix. Most colleges successfully transitioned to online within 24 hours. Courses for fall are being planned for in class and an online option.
Majors May Be Cut
College was restructuring before Covid but now, with speed. Colleges that offered everything may offer popular courses, & programs for resulting in direct career entry.
Traditional college has often not been lining up with career requirements needed to get any job on graduation. Change was happening, and is happening faster. College funding may be directed to boom areas connected with the pandemic and support industries, to get smart students in high demand jobs.
20% of smaller colleges were in financial straits before Covid. Now 30% may close or be bought. 50 students less will drive these colleges to closure. Check college finances if worried.
A top educator said "Better the college dies, than the student dies." Watch for closures and mergers.
All colleges will have huge budget cuts. Look at retension rates to see which colleges might have been in difficulty before Covid, for an indication.
Beware 'Courting' Mail
If a college courts you heavily, they may want you; they want you to apply so they can turn you down-raising their rank. Or they may be near bankruptsy. However, with colleges losing 25% of students who planned to go, colleges are courting those -especially those who will pay. The UC system in California is taking more out-of-state students as international students drastically drop. So if you have $60K+ a year to pay, California may be the place for you (online though this fall.)
Online College "Ratings"
Colleges have extensively surveyed students who had to leave campus and switch to online this semester. About 1/4 loved it, 1/4 didn't.
Faculty across the country moved classes online, usually within 24 hours, only having 2 hours notice. For the fall, online and in class will be offered many places, with online students appearing on screens, in some schools, online kids will be able to control a robot to look at who is talking, etc microphones throughout the class so the experience can be captured.
Check your state database for hirings. There's an expansion of virtual jobs and virtual volunteering. And jobs, delivery, manufacturing, security, instacart ....Look for virtual internships which although are shorter in duration, are still valuable. Follow passions to explore strengths.
"Fast" certifications are available in pandemic-related careers.
Colleges report high quality online teaching is more expensive than in person. Teachers say it takes more time. So they oppose tuition refunds. Online requires innovation.
Transition to safe return is very costly, with new lab layouts, new classrooms, remote zoom class versions for every class, etc.
Colleges say that students are attending more special lectures, social meetings, & extras online than they did in person, when they were 'too busy' on campus. The campus experience may be lost but that's a temporary situation. Only 25% of students forced online have not liked it. 25% have found it excellent.
Covid Budget CUTS
CFOs disagree with College Deans as to what should be cut. 86% of CFO's propose academics cuts. Approx 86% of deans plan management cuts. There will be cuts to balance fewer students and high costs of student safety.
Only 13% of college presidents thought they would increase IT to cope with the disaster but now that is changing. Robots, plexiglass, one-way hallways, expanded computer labs--but that allow distancing all cost money.
Planning Course cuts
Check what your schedule will look like in the fall. Small enrollment majors with poor graduation rates maybe cut and replaced by interdisciplinary courses to fill out some majors. This is good as it boosts job chances with colleges more involved in job prep. More schools may allow Coursera and similar credit.
Pandemic-related careers will be growing and those departtments will be the focus. This is good as higher education should be looking after the greater needs of society.
High tuition not worth It --Deans say
Behind closed doors, deans say high tuition for traditional college is not value for money as courses not linked to Technology Age top careers. Traditional academic education is valuable but doesn't always align with job qualifications. That is changing.
A college education is wonderful and enriching and everyone should have the experience but only 25% of grads get jobs in their field. Small tweeks and student career planning can make for more successful outcomes.