New projections released today showing more students graduating from high school than had been previously expected are good news for higher education, where traditional-aged 18- to 24-year-old students make or break budgets for many colleges and universities. But they don’t change the outlook for a sector that has for decades relied on a steadily growing pipeline of students. Higher education will soon face shrinking cohorts of traditional-aged students, whose enrollment has long been key to making budgets balance. The sector may not be able to kick the can down the road and avoid fixing its creaky business model much longer.
In the aftermath of the attacks on the United States Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, college leaders are being asked to confront dangerous and offensive speech by students, faculty, and staff members that promote false claims about the 2020 election and support the violence that occurred last week as a result of the spread of such claims. The calls for administrators to rid their colleges of those who hold such views, and to examine how their institutions combat misinformation, is often complicated by First Amendment protections. Colleges and universities, after all, are meant to be forums for students to voice, debate and defend arguments founded in truth, experts on political expression said.
Today, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, data and anecdotal evidence now suggest we may be seeing a similar rise in demand for health and medical education. “It’s unprecedented,” said Geoffrey Young, senior director for student affairs and programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges. In the past two decades, the average yearly increase for total applications to medical schools has been about 2.5 percent, he said. This year, applications are up 18 percent over all. The increase, Young said, appears to have impacted a majority of medical institutions. However, some colleges and universities have seen their numbers overshoot that national increase.
ACE estimated the amount of aid going to 3,500 public and private nonprofit colleges and universities. It does not include another $1.7 billion in the relief package for historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions or $113 million set aside for institutions with the greatest unmet need or those not served by the primary formula, such as independent graduate schools, as well as another $681 million dedicated for emergency aid for students attending for-profit universities. The colleges receiving the most funds are getting more than the combined amount institutions are getting in some states. Higher education institutions in Alaska are only receiving a total of $18.8 million.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Friday, compared the rates of COVID-19 exposure in counties with large universities with remote instruction and with in-person instruction. “U.S. counties with large colleges or universities with remote instruction (n = 22) experienced a 17.9 percent decrease in incidence and university counties with in-person instruction (n = 79) experienced a 56 percent increase in incidence, comparing the 21-day periods before and after classes started. Counties without large colleges or universities (n = 3,009) experienced a 6 percent decrease in incidence during similar time frames,” the study said.