Life After COVID-19: How Will Higher Education and K-12 Schools Change in the Fall?
A few months ago, college campuses across the country started closing down and sending students home for the semester. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) canceled March Madness — and every other sport on the docket. But the ramifications extend far beyond Zoom-hosted classes and Animal Crossing graduation gatherings: For many students, being sent home from college unexpectedly meant scrambling to find a place to live, to find support — financial and otherwise.
For younger students, virtual learning has proven difficult as well. Despite teachers' best efforts, most schools, especially public schools, didn’t have roadmaps to deal with all-virtual learning scenarios. In fact, plenty of universities and otherwise privately funded schools with seemingly huge endowments weren’t well-equipped either. Between technological roadblocks and the fact that many students don’t have access to computers, tablets or the internet at home, the novel coronavirus pandemic certainly spotlighted the discrepancies and shortcomings when it comes to education in the United States. That is to say, the system’s cracks are starting to show — now more than ever.
In New York City, for example, the decision to close public schools was a difficult one: On one hand, keeping schools open would’ve been a health risk for students, teachers and their respective households. But, on the other hand, many students rely on their schools for food and other resources — or, simply, as a place to go when their parents are at work. Needless to say, these exposed cracks reveal complications and contradictions.
How Has COVID-19 Already Impacted Higher Education?
Amid all of those frustrations, there’s also the very real, looming possibility that some schools, particularly liberal arts colleges, won’t reopen come this autumn. In fact, MacMurray College, a small, private liberal arts college in Jacksonville, Illinois, announced its closure earlier in May after 174 years of educating students. Sadly, MacMurray, though it did have financial difficulties unrelated to the pandemic, isn’t an anomaly.
Ways Colleges Will Look Different in the Fall
In the meantime, colleges and universities have found myriad ways to cope: Pine Manor College, a small private institution in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, that aims to support underserved and low-income students, merged with the much larger Boston College; a New Jersey state senator has proposed colleges provide students with tuition refunds (many universities are already refunding room and board costs, for obvious reasons); the University of Akron is eliminating three intercollegiate sports from its roster, resulting in a reported $4.4 million in savings, as well as six of its 11 academic colleges; and from Harvard Medical School to the California State University system, many higher ed institutions have already announced completely virtual fall courses.
What Will “Back to School” Season Look Like for K-12 Students and Teachers in the Fall?
When it comes to the closure of college campuses, folks seem more attuned to the other problems that stem from such decisions: Some full-time students who live on campus had nowhere else to go, while others faced daunting financial challenges without on-campus jobs or resources like meal plans. Some students depend on their universities for healthcare — not just insurance, but for therapy and onsite checkups. But these adverse effects also impact younger K-12 students too.