‘Higher education essentially preserves intergenerational racial and class inequality’: How coronavirus could make it worse

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The coronavirus could exacerbate the inequities in higher education. “It seems to be this ticking time bomb for the institutions that are least well-resourced,” said Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research at Demos, a think tank.

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For the past several weeks, families, college leaders and even lawmakers have been focused on the question of whether students will be returning to campuses this fall. But the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on America’s higher education landscape will likely far outlast the next semester, or even year.

“It seems to be this ticking time bomb for the institutions that are least well-resourced,” said Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research at Demos, a left-leaning think tank. “The inequality between the haves and the have-nots is going to grow even more.” “ ‘Higher education essentially preserves intergenerational racial and class inequality in America now.’ ”

Even if enrollment stays relatively stable, colleges could still suffer. Analysts at Moody’s Investors Service wrote in a recent report that college fall enrollment could actually increase as students who might normally work opt for school instead in the absence of available jobs. Still, the ratings agency is predicting that the revenue schools receive from tuition will drop because colleges will need to offer more financial aid to lure students in an economic downturn.

“If past is prologue,” Miller said, these schools are “probably at the greatest risk,” in the wake of the pandemic and economic downturn.

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