The rise of COVID-19, also commonly referred to as the coronavirus, has affected everyone’s life in some way or another. Shops are closing, travel is restricted, and it’s difficult to find hand sanitizer anywhere. Coronavirus has also had a major impact on higher education. Here’s what would need to know about coronavirus and colleges.
Colleges Closing Campuses, Switching to Online Learning
Many, if not most, colleges around the US are temporarily shutting down in-person classes. Some schools are going so far as to cancel in-person classes for the rest of the year! Regardless, most are adapting to the unprecedented situation by switching to online classes.
Closed campuses are displacing many students from their dorms. They must either return home or seek out other accommodation. Some schools, such as Smith College, are waiving spring housing fees so students have some place safe to stay. Other colleges, like Grinnell and Loyola Marymount University, are requiring all students to evacuate campus for the rest of the semester.
However, that doesn’t mean colleges are canceling classes. Schools have switched to online learning via virtual lectures and online lesson plans. Many colleges were already equipped with online or distance learning tools, though others have scrambled to adjust their classes away from the brick-and-mortar classroom.
Though there are some hitches to the online change–from unreliable internet to rushed transitions–it’s nevertheless impressive how quickly colleges adapted to the rapidly changing coronavirus situation.
Campus Tours Canceled
Another downside to the coronavirus outbreak is high school students’ inability to tour campuses. Attending college visits is a vital step in the college search process, but as of right now it just isn’t safe to hold traditional in-person tours.
Luckily, many colleges already have virtual-tours in place! From their computers, students can explore campuses digitally, review college life videos, and learn about their prospective colleges from social media platforms. While not perfectly ideal, it is a way for students to continue their research into potential schools.
ACT and SAT Testing Dates Canceled or Postponed
In light of recent events, ACT and the College Board will halt their entrance exams. The ACT’s April 4th test has been postponed to June 13th. The SAT test set for May 2nd, however, is completely canceled, and the College Board is offering refunds.
As the ACT and SAT is required for many college applications, it’s not yet clear how colleges will respond to the sudden gap in tests. Some may be more lenient, and make the tests optional for this coming year, others may expect students to make up the exam.
Colleges Extending the May 1st Deadline
In light of how COVID-19 is affecting the college search process, many colleges have extended the national May 1st acceptance deadline, so that students may have more time to reach a conclusion on which college they’d like to attend.
Be sure to check with your intended college on how far that deadline has been pushed back, if at all.
Government Waiving Federal Student Loan Interest
One silver lining in all this is that the federal government announced last Friday, that it would waive federal student loan interest rates during the crisis. A Department of Education spokesperson stated that under the new policy, any borrower with a federal loan–including those in income-driven repayment and in forbearance–will have interest waived until the temporary policy ends, and that the department does not know exactly how long the policy will be in effect.
Predictions for the Future
Though impossible to predict exactly how COVID-19 will have an impact on higher education, we do have a few hypotheses:
An Increase in Online College Enrollment
Given the national switch to online education, many students may be more open to online colleges in the future. Not only to many consider it a convenient alternative to traditional education, it also saves considerable money by way of room & board and other in-person expenses.
An Increase in Community College Enrollment
Like online colleges, community colleges typically offer more flexibility and convenience than traditional 4-year universities. Given how drastically COVID-19 has affected brick-and-mortar colleges, students may opt for that flexibility over tradition.
Students More Likely to Attend Colleges Closer to Home
The campus closures have been particularly hard on out-of-state students far from home. With travel restrictions and furniture/supplies to suddenly store, it may not be surprising if in the future students may stick closer to home. If another crisis does arise, at least they’ve got support close by.
A Final Thought
In times of crises, it’s important to keep calm, keep yourself educated and updated, and also be patient. Continued flexibility, from both students and educators, will be crucial in the coming months. Though certainly a frustrating situation, it’s admirable how adaptable and understanding higher education has been in response.
Stay safe and healthy!
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