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College Is Going to Look Very Different After Coronavirus

Here’s how.

5/21/2020 11:05:00 PM

Some fear that the short-term socioeconomic, geographic, and racial disparities exposed by the pandemic will only continue to worse.

Here’s how.

of older adults and “nontraditional” students at two-year community colleges and for-profit online universities — some of which, in years since, have risen to national prominence in the online learning space — new trends and structural inequities in the aftermath of the coronavirus will also transform the higher education landscape. Some fear that the short-term socioeconomic, geographic, and racial disparities exposed by the pandemic will only continue to worsen.

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Teen Voguespoke with four higher education experts — including a former college president, policy experts, and a union leader — to get their insights into how this pandemic will shape higher education in the years to come. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Teen Vogue: What do you predict will be some of the most consequential, long-term implications of this pandemic on higher education?Robert Kelchen, associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University: I think one of the biggest long-term implications will be whether colleges can survive in their current form, because typically, during a recession,

enrollment in collegeincreases significantly. But during this crisis, it’s not entirely clear whether that will happen, because if you can’t leave your house, you may take a class or two online, but you may not go full time. So this will stress the budget model of colleges in ways that it’s never been stressed before.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and former president of Mount Holoyke College: We have for a hundred years relied on the same model of higher education, and in the past few decades have implemented what is an unsustainable financial model, where we continue to raise tuition and have burgeoning loan burdens, which result in growing economic and therefore racial segregation in higher education. So I think this crisis will force us to look at new ways to deliver a curriculum at a time when we’re recognizing an education will be more important than ever.

Megan Coval, vice president of policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators: Due to the impact the pandemic is having on the economy, we are expecting that many more students may qualify for greater amounts of financial aid. In the short term, that may mean more appeals to financial aid offices to have aid offers adjusted through the use of professional judgment. In the long term, it may mean more students become eligible to receive the federal Pell Grant. Although the Pell Grant program currently has a reserve fund – specifically intended to ensure the viability of the program through times of economic downturn – if Congress does not make further investments in the program, it may face a shortfall in the years to come.

AdvertisementRandi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT): We’ve seen so much of higher ed teaching based upon graduate students and adjuncts, many of whom were working paycheck to paycheck. So just like the gig economy, the higher ed infrastructure is based upon a lot of precarious labor, and that’s going to become more and more precarious.… Half of the AFT’s 240,000 higher education members are contingent workers; 35,000 are graduate employees. We are the largest union of contingent workers. We just put out a

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reporton quality of life for adjunct faculty, and 45% of adjunct faculty rely on public assistance now; 40% have trouble covering basic household expenses. Many are struggling with food insecurity, limited health coverage, housing issues – all of which has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

TV: Which types of institutions do you predict will be hit hardest economically?Coval:structured…institutions that serve a larger portion of part-time students, such as community colleges, may get less funding. That can be detrimental because those students likely have other commitments, such as work, family, or other obligations, and could benefit from that aid. We do know that states are already turning to cuts [in] public higher education to balance their budgets. During the last recession, schools were able to get through by increasing tuition. But with the unique impact of this pandemic in forcing instruction online, it’s not clear that students and families would be willing or able to pay higher tuition rates.

Kelchen: The most elite colleges will be fine no matter what. I think community colleges will end up doing fairly well, and colleges where a larger percentage of students commute will end up doing fairly well.… I think that colleges that will struggle the most are smaller, residential colleges in rural areas, because those colleges are often expensive, and students and families aren’t clear whether they’ll be able to actually go there in person. Even if the college is open, students may not want to travel four, five, or six hours to get there. Another set of winners will be colleges that already had large online programs. The ones you see advertising on TV right now will probably end up being okay.

Read more: Teen Vogue »


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