A handful of organizations are virtually holding nationwide commencement ceremonies for college students whose campuses shuttered to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Facebook will livestream a graduation ceremony in mid-May packed with celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Garner, and Simone Biles. And a coalition of leaders of historically black colleges and related industry groups is teaming with Essence, a lifestyle magazine geared toward black women, to host a similar virtual event. The news comes as scores of U.S. colleges have announced virtual graduations or have pushed back the dates of in-person events.
As the traditional May 1 college decision day approaches, admissions leaders have been expressing concern that a significant number of students who’ve paid deposits promising to attend certain campuses will opt against enrolling because of the coronavirus pandemic. Such decisions could upend the models colleges and universities use to build their freshman classes—and to balance their budgets. Today, newly released data from polling of U.S. high school seniors suggest admissions officers may have good reason to be worried. About 12 percent of such students who have already made deposits no longer plan to attend a four-year college full-time, according to the polling. The findings are being shared today by the consulting firm Art & Science Group, which polled 1,171 high school seniors from April 21-24.
The U.S. Department of Education will give an additional $1 billion in coronavirus relief to minority-serving institutions, including historically black and tribal colleges, as well as to select other schools that serve high shares of low-income students. The funds are part of the $14 billion in aid directed to colleges in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in March. As these schools tend to be under-resourced and serve needy students, the funds aim to provide more support for covering their own costs and supporting students.
Consumer protection groups are seeking changes to policies that govern how distance education is offered across state lines in most of the U.S. They have made several recommendations to NC-SARA, the organization that controls the nation’s only multistate reciprocity agreement for online learning, including proposed rule changes on professional licensing and resolving student complaints. While reciprocity agreements such as NC-SARA’s are meant to ease barriers for institutions to offer online education to out-of-state students, the organization has come under fire for having weak standards.
Around the country, higher education is being buffeted from all directions. Nearly all the major revenue sources—tuition, room and board, activity fees, charitable giving—are under severe pressure. The problems will grow decidedly worse if campuses aren’t able to open up again in the fall, a scenario that looks increasingly likely. Public colleges and universities are certain to see cuts in aid from financially strapped states. “States will miss hundreds of billions, if not more, in revenue that will never be recovered,” said Dan Malloy, chancellor of the University of Maine System. “This is the downturn of 2008 on steroids.”
Strada’s survey on the pandemic’s impact on education and work has entered its fifth week. During a webcast Wednesday, researchers pointed out a key theme emerging from the weeks of results: people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the outbreak. “With the widespread disruption of work and loss of hours and jobs and income, it’s playing out differently across different communities,” said Dave Clayton, senior vice president for consumer insights at Strada. “The Latino American population are more likely to lose hours or shifts or wages, but the black American population is more likely to actually be laid off and lose a job.”
Top Hat launches free virtual classroom capabilities to help educators better engage and motivate Higher Ed students
As higher education institutions begin to prepare for the Fall semester, there is tremendous uncertainty. Will classes resume on campus? Will they continue to be delivered online? Or some combination of the two? What is not uncertain is that colleges and universities face unprecedented pressure to demonstrate real value to students—to provide an educational experience that is engaging, motivating and effective, regardless of where it is delivered. Getting this right is critical to the immediate future of higher ed. But as many will acknowledge, teaching well online is easier said than done. For most, the shift online in the face of COVID-19 has been a challenge characterized by disjointed learning experiences delivered using hastily assembled Frankenstein solutions. Where students are concerned, the transition has left much to be desired.
While the transition from in-person to remote learning has been difficult for all institutions of higher learning, it has been particularly difficult for community colleges, which are used to accomplishing more with less and keeping costs as low as possible for their students. Community colleges serve students who may not have access to laptops, tablets and high-speed internet. More than 80 percent of students at Roxbury Community College (RCC) are eligible to receive Pell Grants. Many of them are still becoming familiar with web-based technology. Several face the additional challenges of juggling their schoolwork with caring for children at home as well as the financial pressures caused by COVID-19.
The country’s nearly half a million undocumented students won’t be able to access any of the coronavirus emergency relief colleges and universities are receiving to help their students. There are an estimated 4,000 undocumented students enrolled in the 10-campus University of California system, about 9,500 at California State University’s 23 campuses and about 50,000 to 70,000 in the state’s 115 community colleges. About half of those students are estimated to have DACA status, an Obama-era program that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Nationally, it’s estimated more than 450,000 undocumented students are enrolled in college, according to a new report. When Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the release of the money that had been earmarked as emergency funds for students last week, she said the colleges would have the discretion to distribute the money and encouraged them to prioritize those students with the highest needs.
Tulane-affiliated education group gets federal grant to study schools’ response to COVID-19 nationwide
The National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice—based at Tulane University—will study how traditional, charter, and private schools across the country are responding to the coronavirus, according to a Tuesday press release. The research will be funded by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, an extension of REACH’s founding grant. Doug Harris heads the organization, which was created to examine school choice across the country. He also runs the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, a group that focuses on charter schools and their performance locally.
Strategic Education Inc., the parent company of the for-profit Strayer and Capella universities, is planning on providing educational services to other higher education institutions, its executives announced on a call with analysts last week. The company expects more colleges will seek to offer their online courses at scale in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It plans to provide only technology and instructional support—not marketing, admissions, or enrollment help. With this move, Strategic Education will join other for-profit college operators that are providing educational services to colleges.