COVID-19 and What it Means For Higher Education

COVID-19 and What it Means For Higher Education

Delays and worries, from the SATs to loans to admissions. How will the coronavirus affect students?

As COVID-19 sweeps across the nation, policymakers are struggling to determine what this means for the future of higher education. Most schools have been forced to close campuses, send students home, and delay admissions. Administrators, students, and their families are all grappling with an uncertain future.

While some news outlets are covering college admission changes, most are focusing on campus logistics: the transition to online classrooms, commencement cancellations, the financial impact on higher education, and the inability of some students to return home.

For incoming college applicants, here are the projected delays:

  • In-person tours for perspective college students are cancelled and virtual tours are being developed.
  • Over 200 universities committed to delaying admission decisions and deposit deadlines from May 1 to June 1. However, many of the country’s most competitive colleges have not made this switch. They are sticking to their scheduled admission timeline.
  • The SATs and ACTs have also been pushed back.
  • The timeline and packages for financial aid are also changing. Some institutions are extending deadlines and notifications, to give families more time. And as colleges’ resources are taxed, financial aid rewards could be adjusted.

Current students

However, currently enrolled students are also facing financial uncertainty. Many rely on work-study programs and on-campus jobs to make ends meet, and their wages are not guaranteed. There are also unexpected expenses that come with traveling home, and some may not have a place to go. College students who are homeless or formerly in foster care depend on meal plans and dormitory housing. Many worry that even after this outbreak is over, low-income students may not be able to recover. Already a vulnerable population, without the financial and physical resources, they may find it difficult, if not impossible, to return.

International students from China, Italy, and other high-impact areas were scrambling to find a place to stay here in the U.S. Although colleges, alumni, and other organizations are working to lift this monetary burden, this could keep students from returning in the fall. Potential decreased attendance rates from international and low-income students will affect college revenue in the coming year. Colleges will be hit hard financially. Some schools may accept or poach more applicants to ensure that they have enough students to fill their incoming class. While other colleges may need to merge or shut down completely.

The shifting economy

The financial stability of higher education institutions is shifting along with the economy. Students and parents requested refunds for lost housing, meal plans, and other affiliated charges. Endowments–when schools have them–are less certain given the downturned markets. And states, facing budget shortfalls, may or will freeze state-level funding for higher education.

Colleges are not only losing income; they are spending a lot more on this school year than expected. Switching to online classes means unforeseen costs for technology and services. There are also unexpected fees that come with sterilizing campus facilities, among other new responsibilities.

It is an uncertain future for many who are entering or enrolled in college amid the turmoil caused by COVID-19. Information is changing rapidly, and there is more uncertainty than certainty. Students and families are advised to stay connected with their schools and counselors to stay informed as more resources become available.

We are working closely with our education clients as they pivot to help those who are affected or respond to these impacts by easing the path forward. We know the impact of COVID-19 on higher education will continue to evolve as will our responses.