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Opinion: Let’s fix college first, before rushing to reopen campuses

COVID-19 will mean the end of the traditional college experience for many. Here are nine ways to reimagine higher education for the future.

Opinion: Let’s fix college first, before rushing to reopen campuses
[Photo: Sincerely Media/Unsplash]
about reopening campuses in the fall, they have shifted the burden entirely on students to weigh highly uncertain disease risks for an on-campus college experience that may not even happen. Add to that taking on amid , and it’s no wonder that at least college students are abandoning plans to enroll altogether.

2020欧洲杯体育线上投注That’s why it’s been bewildering to see university presidents such as Brown University’s Christine Paxson proclaim and that. We now have that travel, large gatherings, and high population density all dramatically accelerate the spread of COVID-19. Pushing to reopen college campuses seems tone-deaf at best, and catastrophically self-serving at worst.

So how did we get here? Before considering reopening campuses, we have to question whether reviving a national enterprise where tuition increases faster than wage growth, yet of students graduate underemployed while shouldering of debt should actually be a national priority.

2020欧洲杯体育线上投注Pushing to reopen college campuses seems tone-deaf at best, and catastrophically self-serving at worst.”

2020欧洲杯体育线上投注For 10 years before COVID-19, colleges ramped spending by , despite . This included dramatic increases in such as administrators, researchers, and shiny facilities to help bolster rankings that attract more full-paying students from out-of-state and abroad.

2020欧洲杯体育线上投注Colleges have funded deficits by directly to students. In fact, college is now unaffordable to virtually every student. Currently, of students get some form of financial aid, and of students graduate with average debt approaching $30,000.

For all that spending, tuition, and debt, only graduate, with debt say college isn’t worth it, and over earn the same or less as those with a high school degree.

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COVID-19 is exposing the house of cards

As the pandemic state budgets, colleges may see funding shortfalls even larger than the cuts they experienced in 2008. Many face potentially catastrophic enrollment uncertainty, risks to multiple revenue streams, and material erosion on balance sheets. These factors have led Moody’s to the entire sector and Bob Zemsky, University of Pennsylvania professor and coauthor of The College Stress Test2020欧洲杯体育线上投注, to predict that at least (i.e. 1,200 of the 6,600+ American colleges) now face severe market risk.

Unless you are in the of institutions that hold 74% of endowment funds, COVID-19 will force a long-overdue reorganization of the higher education cost structure tied to physical campuses, especially for smaller colleges serving low-income students. Paxson’s fear that “higher education will crumble” does not seem far-fetched.

So, why isn’t reopening college campuses the solution?

For one, while large and wealthy institutions such as Paxson’s can afford her proposal of “test, trace, and separate,” it’s hard to imagine cash-strapped colleges financing high-volume medical testing, PPE, and increased housing, dining, and hospital capacity—not to mention hazard pay and quarantine leave for essential workers.

Even if we fund those measures, it’s even harder to imagine students incurring crippling debt to participate in “virtual social activities replacing parties” and stadium lectures. Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, which has over 130,000 online students,. “If you were to design a place to make sure that everyone gets the virus, it would look like a nursing home or a campus.”

What Now? College After COVID-19

Rather than anchor to idyllic quadrangles, colleges must embrace digital learning. This means bold and necessary evolutions to their business models and curriculums that genuinely serve students’ immediate and long-term well-being.

2020欧洲杯体育线上投注Here are nine ways we can start fixing America’s broken higher education system together:

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  1. Reset curriculums to improve employment opportunities. In New America’s survey, of students list improving employment opportunities as a top reason for attending college. It’s time we listen to them. This means tuition resets, job-ready curriculum, shorter degrees, and partnerships to connect job seekers with growing industries—particularly ones that accommodate remote working opportunities.
  2. Bite the bullet and dramatically overhaul costs. Tools such as can help address bloat and set a higher bar for costly administrators and disengaged staff, which may be as high as.
  3. Liberate instructors to design new courses across platforms and collaborate on best practices. This is the single biggest opportunity to learn how to scale personalized online learning across colleges and universities.
  4. Unlock endowments to put cash directly into the pockets of students, families, and campus workers. A temporary regulatory reprieve allowing direct transfers will ensure that colleges aren’t just admitting those who can pay full tuition.
  5. Invest in holistic anti-poverty student support. Connecting students with social services they otherwise would have had on-campus will increase student retention and revenue, especially as .
  6. Provide reskilling resources to essential on-campus workers. Many subcontracted campus workers, kitchens, janitors, IT staff, and other hourly employees cannot work from home.
  7. Make the internet a public utility. Only of rural homes have high-speed internet, and many low-income families tablets, laptops, or desktop computers. We must for online learning to work for college students and the rising high school students behind them.
  8. Embrace the internet’s power of community building. We have seen virtual concerts, , and even. Incentivize students to build a new way of learning together.
  9. Partner with hotels to create safe learning environments and local meetups. We can still work toward in-person interaction among students in the same cities and states.

Shaan Hathiramani is the founder and CEO of , an online sales academy for job seekers from nontraditional and underrepresented backgrounds.

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