Universities in a Mess Over Upcoming Year; Some Reopenings Meeting Fierce Resistance

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US universities and colleges are already in serious financial trouble due to coronavirus, and the coming fall season won’t do much to improve matters. Schools were already all over the map about what they are doing for the coming school year. And some of them are changing course midstream as infections rise in their state.

It isn’t just that schools had to refund room and board fees for their aborted spring terms. Universities make about $50 billion from non-tuition charges, not just room and board but also renting out university space and tickets to sporting events. That has evaporated and is not coming back any time soon.

Even at the campuses that say they are reopening, things will not go back to the old normal. Foreign students only account for 5.5% of the student population, but over the years, Chinese students have become the most heavily represented nationality and they pay full fees and tuition. Between travel restrictions, China-bashing, and high Covid-19 risks, foreign enrollment is expected to plunge, and that will have a disproportionate impact on revenues.

It isn’t clear whether it is possible to reopen a university safely, at least in an America which has done plenty to get coronavirus wrong and still has far too few people wearing masks. One academic has told me the administrators he has spoken to at several universities have admitted they see no way to reopen dorms safely, yet many are doing just that. Lowering density of occupancy would reduce but not eliminate risk.

And that raises the question of safe for whom? The universities’ decisions appear to be driven by concerns about safety of their students and their faculty. The fate of support staff like cafeteria workers and dorm crews gets nary a mention. Nor does the safety of the communities in which they live, even when the school is tax exempt, appear to rate high, if at all.

The lack of criticism from locals seems odd until you factor in the dependence of many communities like Charlottesville, VA on their school. Imagine the hostility if you took what would be perceived as a position opposing the survival of the biggest employer in town. Nevertheless, these reopenings, even ones on a more limited scale, are all superspreader events in the making, particularly since it will be impossible to regulate student behavior in student housing and on their free time. And the whole point of an on-campus experience is to get to know classmates. Hard to do that at a six foot remove.

For US students, the question is whether to come back at all. Many schools that are less tuition dependent are looking to limit how many students return. Those in programs that require lab work are getting priority; some schools are favoring seniors. Consider Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, as described by CNN:

Harvard University plans to bring up to 40% of undergraduates back to campus for the fall semester, including all first-year students, the school announced on Monday. In addition to first-year students, Harvard will allow students who need to be on campus “to progress academically” to return as well.

Princeton University will welcome undergraduate students back to campus in the fall with a reduced capacity, the school announced on Monday. First-year students and juniors will be allowed to return to campus for the fall semester, while sophomores and seniors will be welcomed back in the spring semester…..

Both universities will emphasize online instructions. At Harvard, all course instruction will be delivered online, including for students living on campus. Princeton said that most academic instruction will remain online….

Last week, Yale University announced a similar plan to limit the number of people on campus. Yale will reopen in the fall without sophomores living on campus and then will be open in the spring without freshmen living on campus.

Princeton is at least lowering its tuition by 10%. Not Harvard. And that underscores how much higher education in the US has become about credentialing, as opposed to learning. Teachers have described how difficult it is to teach online, and that it’s impossible to teach, as opposed to merely lecture, with more than 20 students.

Some schools are basically admitting they are making it up as they go, which is not a great inducement to return either. For instance, read between the lines of the University of Maine’s reopening plans:

Chancellor Malloy, UMS University Presidents and Dean of Maine Law unveil unifying principles universities will be using to start on-campus instruction August 31 as scheduled.

Chancellor Dannel Malloy, Maine’s public university presidents, and the dean of Maine Law have adopted a set of unifying safe return and learning principles that will be used in campus-specific plans to bring students, faculty, and staff back to campus for face-to-face instruction starting on Aug. 31, the beginning of the fall 2020 semester. The release of Together for Maine: Principles for a Safe Return kicks off a cascade of student and community messaging at the universities to keep stakeholders informed of campus-specific plans and updates over the summer.

The key elements of the principles include screening strategies to identify and isolate infection at the start of the semester, and a commitment to stay safe and together during the semester with science-based practices aligned with guidance from public health authorities and the UMS Scientific Advisory Board, chaired by University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy….

The University of Maine System will continue to monitor the public health situation, following civil guidance and adjusting plans if necessary to protect student and community health….

“What we have done and learned in our response to the pandemic is helping us plan for the fall with a focus on student safety and success,” said President Ferrini-Mundy. “Faculty at all of our campuses are working to develop the flexible, innovative instruction students will need to be successful.”

This sort of thing does not inspire confidence, particularly in the face of some schools scaling back reopening plans in light of rising infection rates. From Inside Higher Education:

Two universities that were planning on in-person fall terms are now backing away from those plans due to the rise in coronavirus cases, and a third university is shifting its second summer session courses online….

The University of Southern California announced last week that undergraduate students will take all or most of their courses online, reversing course from earlier plans to invite undergraduates back to campus for an in-person fall semester…

Across the country, in Virginia, Hampton University also cited the rise in coronavirus cases in announcing it was changing its plans to reopen the campus in favor of a remote-only fall….

Texas State University said it would shift almost all of the classes for its second summer session online, with the only classes that will remain face-to-face being those “that require a face-to-face component for licensure or degree requirements.

And one school that is doggedly sticking to a reopening plan that does not require students to wear masks in class is facing a faculty rebellion. From Georgia Public Broadcasting:

The majority of Georgia Tech professors, including some the university’s most acclaimed faculty members, have launched a revolt over reopening this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying the current plan “threatens the health, well-being and education of students, staff, and faculty.”

More than 800 of Tech’s 1,100 faculty members outlined their concerns…

The letter…can be read in full here….

The faculty’s objections throw into question the mid-August plans of reopening at one of the nation’s premier public universities. It also comes at a time when the state of Georgia has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. At Tech, nearly a dozen students living in Greek housing near campus have tested positive for coronavirus in recent weeks.

Faculty were already feeling anxious about the upcoming fall semester, GPB News was told, but a recent decision by the Board of Regents and state university system to not require students wear masks in classrooms sent faculty over the edge. Tech, like other public universities in the state, has to follow the rules mandated by the University System of Georgia.

As Lambert points out, universities started nearly 1000 years ago and survived plagues. But the neoliberal era has simultaneously bloated them well beyond their educational focus while also making them financially fragile. On CNN, a spokesman for the American Council for Education said that a 20% decline in enrollment would be devastating for US universities. Yet the clip ended with a student saying that based on what he knew now, he didn’t regard it as safe to return. And that’s before getting to the question of whether largely online, socially distant instruction is worth its hefty price tag.

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  1. jackiebass

    Something not mentioned but a possible issue is facility members. There is the start of resistance to coming back from facility members. They are concerned about their and the students safety.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Um, did you miss the story about Georgia Tech? And why do you think Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are teaching largely or entirely on line?

  2. bmeisen

    Thanks for this summary.

    You assert that universities “started nearly 1000 years ago and survived plagues. But the neoliberal era has simultaneously bloated them well beyond their educational focus while also making them financially.”

    You are of course referring to the system of higher education in the US and the vast majority of its universities. Alternative systems of higher education exist that are able to serve creditialing and learning concerns while disarming neo-liberals – and do so while observing social-distancing and similar covid-19-related interventions. Tuition-free systems used by European social democracies including Germany have been able to shift to online formats without provoking “Where’s the beef?” embarassments. Covid is an Emperor’s new clothes moment for the College Experience.

    1. Jon D Rudd

      Of course there’s also the alternative of providing lots of secure and well-paying jobs which don’t require a college diploma.
      /sides ache from laughing…

      1. bmeisen

        Right, the US labor market should be characterized by diverse career paths involving diverse forms of education and training that lead to recognized and respected qualifications, reflecting the diversity of humanity, making it possible for individuals to reach their potential and recognizing both those who try as well as those who fulfill and maybe go beyond expectations. When realized this model isn’t paradise – you can’t open a bakery in Germany without being qualified as a baker – but there is security for the average worker and small business proprietor. The Big Box economy of the US, i.e. the tyranny of volume efficiencies, interacts with a de-skilled labor market in which undocumented and under-documented workers keep quiet out back while the administrators of an elitist, winner-take-all system of higher education purvey a kool-aid cocktail that has been gulped sloppily by the last couple of generations of college students. A college degree is a personal investment with handsome returns! It’s a no-brainer.

  3. The Rev Kev

    In an added twist, those foreign students attending a university in the US have to have in-person classes. If the university is only offering online classes, they either have to switch to a university that offers in-person classes or leave the country-


    If some universities are demanding that all staff do in-person teaching, then that university should sign a legal agreement in case staff members get sick or maybe die that they are legally and financially responsible in such cases. Call it a ‘roulette agreement’.

    1. CGKen

      My university has given faculty the option of teaching in-person or virtually. (Of course, individual departments may be pressuring faculty, particularly adjuncts, to go one way or the other.)

      My guess is that if I teach in-person and contract COVID the university will claim that since it was my choice they are not liable. Also, they have not yet announced a testing regimen so will likely also claim that I contracted it off-campus.

      By the way, this university has a billion dollar plus endowment.

  4. Shiloh1

    This was always going to be a lightning bug in search of a windshield with respect to very outsized year-over-year growth in tuition cost over the past 30+ years as compared with almost anything else (besides healthcare) primarily due to the availability of financial aid (read: student loans). Charge what the market will bear, especially when most of the market is ‘paying’ with loans. Like real estate, like cars, and in the case of ‘healthcare’ with ‘insurance’. It’s all a racketeering operation.

    At what point are the secondary school students better off with Sal Kahn and college students with the Great Courses, and the like? Compare to what was ‘Zoomed-in’ the last few months.

    None of my kids ever heard the terms “dream college” or “Big Ten Game Day Experience” at my kitchen table, but they heard them plenty of times from the high school guidance counselors.

    As far as revenue loss from missing international students purportedly the U of Illinois Flagship has it covered with insurance, hopefully from a rock-solid AIG.

  5. Larry

    The University of Rhode Island has turned all on campus housing into singles and given priority for that housing to out of state students. That is somewhat feasible due to the small size of Rhode Island. At the same time, the nearby town of Narragansett is limiting house rentals by students to three per home. My niece is one of these students and she knows it’s irrelevant because the town will not be able to stop parties and social mingling.


    My wife works at Brown University and they seem to be waiting for all the other Ivies to announce their plans before moving forward. Brown is planning to announce their plans on July 15th. One of the plans that has been floated is to move the campus to a full year schedule with 2/3rds student population present during each of the now trimesters. During the summer months, all on campus personnel are getting tested for COVID-19, though my wife’s results took 6 days to come in. Seems like a long time if you want to test, trace, and isolate to control on campus outbreaks.

    I see many other schools (especially in Worcester) trying to return earlier in August and end by Thanksgiving. I believe the hope there is that you can get full year tuition commitment even if half (or more) of the year ends up being completely virtual.

    My cousin attends Union College in Schenectady, NY and has already declared that she would take a flyer on the year if it’s not on campus with in person classes.

    Yves is right to point out that communities see the student return as a double edged sword. New England in general has done well controlling the spread of the virus, especially compared to several other states/cities. Even with outbreaks in other parts of the country, tourism is so depressed it is largely avoiding a secondary outbreak (so far). But the return of students from all over the country/world could lead to secondary outbreaks. Rich universities like Harvard are shunned, but UMass Amherst is a major employer in Western, MA and it’s staff and students spend heavily in the Pioneer Valley. Businesses are starved for some of that revenue to return in whatever form it can.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      I see many other schools (especially in Worcester) trying to return earlier in August and end by Thanksgiving.

      Which ones? Holy Cross still hasn’t announced a plan, and WPI is doing some flexible remote learning thing where students and faculty choose when to go remote.

      The rental markets are going to take a nosedive with all this inventory empty.

      1. Larry

        Clark University, Worcester State Univ, and WPI have all announced plans. The key to them is having students on campus and offering up the teaser of blended and some in person classes. WSU is saying they will pivot to all online if need be.

        Union College had a successful approach. My cousin is so sick of being home, she is willing to head to campus for the now announced blended approach that others are offering.

      2. bob

        “The rental markets are going to take a nosedive with all this inventory empty.”

        Good call. The upperclass college rental market was thought to be recession proof- it always goes up!

    2. CGKen

      These testing plans have been shown to be a joke both by you wife’s experience and the stories coming out as sports leagues try to restart. Several MLB teams, which have both more money and fewer people to test than a typical university, have had to stop practicing because test results have been delayed or inconclusive.

      When I read about schools claiming to be able to test their entire populations every two weeks, I have to laugh. It is simply not realistic.

      1. Larry

        Harvard announced it’s planning to test students every three days. And I agree with you. We’re supply constrained and bottle-necked on the tests.

    3. L

      I have sympathy for systems that have not announced their position.

      My own university system has also moved to a end on Thanksgiving model. In general we are caught in a bad place and we are not one of the large schools that plunked down millions for a new stadium and a foreign campus. And we too are seeing community pressure to reopen. Most of the landlords in the area are dependent on us. We also have parents, students, staff and faculty who are concerned about safety. We also have those students who simply cannot learn from home and need a quiet space, or internet that they will get from campus. Then at the state level we have a looming budget shortfall and political pressure from some quarters to pretend that everything is a-ok. Now the feds have come along and changed the rules again and so we have to revamp our plans for non-US students who fear they need to leave.

  6. Burns

    Regarding that tweet about Harvard’s remote classes, I should note for readers’ benefit that Yale puts a large amount of lecture classes on YouTube.

    Judging by the video quality, they appear to be classes from the late 2000s/early 2010s but it’s not like material such as Old Testament history changes dramatically from year to year. No, you cant get the credential watching them, but you can certainly get the education.

    I’m not sure how many other highly ranked universities have similar YouTube channels, but I know MIT does, with selections appropriately skewed towards science and tech.

    In fact, I’d argue that YouTube is actually one of the more useful parts of the internet when used as an educational resource. You have to wade through a lot of crap, but there are real gems on the site if you look hard enough. Just ignore the “influencers” and focus on the material.

    Definitely helped me when I had to replace my kitchen sink faucet and watched a detailed walkthrough on how ro do it.

    1. Off The Street

      Harvard looks to be going all-in on its new model. Perhaps you know it by their acronym: MOOC-H.

      No word on whether Yale is going to join. After all, the latter still holds onto that past glory of the elite HYPS model. With current conditions applicable contagious everywhere, they’ve debated changing to SYPH.

      1. Alex Cox

        I don’t know about the other elite universities, but the average grade at Harvard is A or A-. The tykes’ parents won’t accept less! Since grades are a foregone conclusion, why is the students’ physical presence necessary? Their parents can pay their fees, the students can collect their As, and head off to Goldman Sachs. Ka-ching!

    2. Arizona Slim

      Hearty endorsement of YouTube! Here’s how I’ve used it:

      1. Improving photography skills
      2. Learn how to fix things around the Arizona Slim Ranch
      3. Studying the Russian language
      4. Making mead
      5. Monitoring weather forecasts

      I could go on, but you get the point. YouTube harks back to the Internet of the 1990s, which was focused on people teaching each other how to do things.

      1. bob

        ” 2. Learn how to fix things around the Arizona Slim Ranch”

        I prefer the ‘watch other people brake things while trying to fix it..’ stations. They tend to be much more educational.

  7. stefan

    That even universities can’t get it straight about wearing masks in public gives you some idea about the state of education in America.

  8. Amfortas the hippie

    Eldest has come to grips with his first(and likely second) semester in college being entirely on-line…hence the move to the library/trailerhouse next door.
    all the Plans are still in pencil…much like the Plans wife has seen from Texas Ed Agency…a bunch of non-actionable pablum and weasel words and platitudes, with ample wiggle room.
    I would expect that some consideration has been given to Liability…little darlin’ goes to skool, and gets sick/gets grandma sick, and it ends up in a lawsuit.
    But there’s been 40+ years of screwing up Torts…so who knows?
    it’s a mess.

  9. norm de plume

    ‘Maybe kids should just listen to podcasts, watch YouTube, and read books instead’

    Yeah, the info is out there. I worked in Unis for 25 years and with every passing year wondered more and more about the point of them, as the admins swelled with insanely paid positions that we seemed to to manage quite well without in previous years, as the faculty shrunk with tenured positions replaced by casuals, as the swank spaces multiplied to entice the wealthy Asian sons and daughters from neighbouring countries…

    For many employers, a qual from a ‘sandstone’ was (and to some extent still is) enough to give the successful applicant the tick. But it struck me that with the internet (and of course, old fashioned libraries too) motivated students could learn everything they needed to win jobs in various fields, provided the employers were switched on enough to understand that a credential did not necessarily mean the level of education it promised or implied.

    Very often you would hear tales of how poor some appointments of elite grads were, how shockingly bad their basic knowledge often was. Sophisticated assignment and exam cheating helped make this possible, but also the plummeting standards of the institution as it chased the $. Surveys of industries meant to show how good the grads were were increasingly demonstrating the opposite.

    It occurred to me that at some point employers might grok that, rather than hiring people on the strength of a credential, they were better off with an internal recruitment function that did it’s own examining, on the topics they needed appointees to have mastery of. The cream would rise to the top and be employed, the others would go back to the drawing board.

    When that happened en masse I thought, the whole edifice of elite higher education would be at risk. Oh sure the rich kids (the ‘double-barrelled surnames’) would still go to the top schools but only places where that kind of cachet was important would take them on, and perhaps not in the numbers they once did, knowing they could probably getting better value (and less lip) from someone with a hard won expertise and probably lower expectations. There might even be in time a kind of general contempt in the community for these scions and debutants, so that even they might think twice about attending an exclusive school, aware that this might affect how others perceived them, and not in a good way. I imagined this would be fast-tracked by some sort of economic dislocation. A pandemic didn’t occur to me, but it might well do the job.

    Another possibility is that in the smoking wreckage some of those laid off academics might band together and hire a church hall or something, set up a few partitions, get some tables and chairs and whiteboards and power points, computer ports etc, and run a few ads touting for business at MUCH reduced rates, compared to the halcyon days, and draw in the kids on a pay as you go basis. It kind of resembles how Unis began in the first place. Said kids get an education from Prof Xxxx and a certificate from whatever this ‘guild’ of teachers call themselves. So there is credentialling – on a shoestring but at least as good.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think the mode of university needs to change. This would be easier to manage if the students were local. The large land grant universities far from large metro areas are problematic, but in general, I think school needs to be seen as a supply/demand situation for local communities.

      Re: Charlottesville

      I figure everything from Grounds to the Downtown mall is at risk and every little place in the Barracks Row area. With hospital growth, places opened all along themail stretch going to the Downtown mall. For the most part, they largely looked like student heavy places.

      1. tegnost

        “For the most part, they largely looked like student heavy places”
        Another impact of fewer students is fewer student loan dollars in the hands of careless spenders… Those uni districts made/make the economy seem better than it actually is.

    2. Pelham

      Excellent points. However, I’m disturbed by all this emphasis on obtaining employment that seems to exclude actual education. It sounds as if we’re talking about vocational training, which is fine in and of itself but something that employers should be providing, not institutions of learning.

      There are a few snippets on YouTube of the old “GE College Bowl” that are worth viewing if anyone wishes to get his or her head straight about what an education should be. Teams from different colleges competed to answer questions about history, philosophy, literature, the hard sciences and other disciplines that make up a well rounded education.

      I occasionally watched the show when it was on the air and don’t recall any questions exploring how well prepared anyone was for a BS job in the professional managerial class keeping the deplorable oiks in line.

  10. ObjectiveFunction

    Scott Galloway of NYU laid out a pretty powerful case against a couple of weeks ago, and made some very similar criticisms to yours.

    Universities will face a financial crisis as parents and students recalibrate the value of the fall semester (spoiler alert: it’s a terrible deal). In addition, our cash cows (international students) may decide xenophobia, Covid-19, and H1-B visa limits aren’t worth $79,000 (estimated one-year cost of attending NYU).

    This has been a long time coming and, similar to many industries, we will be forced to make hard decisions. Most universities will survive, many will not. This reckoning is overdue and a reflection of how drunk universities have become on exclusivity and the Rolex-ification of campuses, forgetting we’re public servants not luxury brands.

    Universities that, after siphoning $1.5 trillion in credit from young people, cannot endure a semester on reduced budgets do not deserve to survive.

    1. DJG

      ObjectiveFunction: Yep. Expect a lot of caterwauling about the need for “international students,” who are mainly the scions of the Chinese kleptocracy and the Indian high-caste kleptocracy who pay full freight. Note the full freight. Yet the universities pass them off as harbingers of “diversity.”

      Further, when the orders came for confinement to quarters during the winter and early spring, many international students were stranded here with only minimal help from their schools. They may not want to repeat that, once they can get out of the U S of A.

      I recall that my own elite alma mater regularly makes foolish statements in this area–and regularly is unable to recruit a sufficient number of U.S. black students. But we will all benefit from studying with young Wu, whose parents stole a couple of steelmills in Sichuan!

      1. juno mas

        Studying with young Wu? While there is an English language proficiency requirement to attend California public colleges, it’s not likely that you can speak to Wu in Chinese (and s/he to you in English or Spanish). The Chinese students at my community college rarely speak English at all.

        This is not to say their study habits (regular, long bouts in the library) are not a model for other students. Their benefit to the campus is real; the administrators chase these high paying Internationals to bolster the bottom line.

        My local community college is offering SOME on-campus courses: nursing, science labs, and physical education (outdoors). Will that qualify Internationals to attend, get visas?

    2. L

      I saw that but I recoiled at his discussion of “ROI” and the idea that massive increases of seats would not be a problem. In my own area we have been doing that to meet demand year over year. The end result is that the workload has gone up and the quality of the student experience has gone down. If anything it has made the courses less supportive and less interactive. In many respects it has lowered students’ expectations in a bad way.

      As to ROI, that is all in who calculates it, and what they care about. If your outcome is degrees per dollar then that is different than actual education, and it ignores the other major functions of state schools which include outreach, extension to the community, industrial integration, and research. Not that these should be paid directly out of tuition but a single objective function like he is using ignores them.

      I would also note that the perspective is very different on different campuses. NYU has spent years growing and building a reputation as an international ‘flagship’ brand and is now eager to go online and pick up distance dollars because the administrators need it. These are the same schools that are eager to “partner” with tech companies for new online ventures. They are the epitome of the rolexification.

      At my own state school and others I have been at there are issues to be sure but luxury branding is not one of them. Our problem is how to help the state’s economy grow (not help Amazon or Apple), and how to support students who want to learn high tech fields but have dodgy internet at home and come from high schools with no advanced math or even basic physics. For those students youtube doesn’t cut it, and being dropped into a 200 person lecture hall is floundering.

    3. Laputan

      Galloway had me up until all that gobbledygook about ROI, deltas, multichannel competence, leveraging technology, and brand equity. He’s constitutionally incapable of making a point without infusing it with a bunch of obfuscatory, meaningless business-speak.
      Until we catch up with the rest of the developed world with tuition-free college or If businesses stopped treating worthless credentials like MBAs from Stern Business School as representative of any knowledge or skills – neither of which it imparts – then universities are going to keep putting unassuming late-teen kids into debt peonage.

  11. none

    IIRC, Isaac Newton’s annus mirabilis was the year where he had to stay out of university because it closed due to a plague outbreak. There is nothing new.

  12. JustAnotherVolunteer

    Here in Oregon one of the UO Professors did a survey of Faculty, students, and staff. Many of the tensions you’d expect are present in the high level summary found here


    There are also a lot of comments on the remote teaching experience from Spring Term

    Long but worth reading through the full results as well.

    The UO Admin types are still moving forward with plans To open at least some dorms and classrooms.
    Meanwhile, the City of Eugene has a spike in corvid cases related to recent student house parties.

    This won’t end well.

  13. flora

    ICE throws in a wrench. From CNN:

    (CNN)International students who are pursuing degrees in the United States will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday.
    The move may affect thousands of foreign students who come to the United States to attend universities or participate in training programs, as well as non-academic or vocational studies.


    1. voteforno6

      I saw some speculation that the motivation behind this is to force universities to open to in-person instruction, which wouldn’t be shocking coming from the Trump administration. Anyone else with a conscience, yes, but not Trump.

      1. L

        What they have done in actuality is return to what the rule was before the pandemic started since visa holders have always been blocked from taking online courses. My personal read on this is that the Trump Admin has officially deemed the pandemic “over” and is ordering the agencies to play along.

  14. JWP

    At Wake Forest, we were sent the “our way forward plan” which was 28 pages concluding they (who possess a $1.6 billion endowment) Are unable to coordinate or acquire enough tests to test before students return to campus or weekly/daily/monthly on campus, will place faith in a self-initiated symptom tracking app, will keep the gym, cafeteria, library, and common spaces open, and will stick all infected students in a hotel downtown.
    Either they are truly making it up, as Yves pointed out U Maine is, or they’re carrying over their neo-con university style to COVID (both equally possible).

    The rumblings among my friends is there will be mass gap years and drop outs because the college experience of learning in person and working with professors, along with the general fun of being at school is far too valuable to pass up.

  15. Edward

    Will students have to agree not to sue the college if they become infected with Covid-19? Will insurance rates go up? This sounds like trial by error.

    I think the economy needs to re-open, but the trick is figuring out how to do this without creating infection risks, such as by staying outdoors.

  16. Big River Bandido

    So Harvard and Yale are “welcoming” students back to the dorms but only teaching “online”? What crassly obvious corruption and what colossal foolishness. There’s absolutely no upside to being on campus if you can’t have, you know, *classes*. The only reason they’re doing this is financial.

    So many of the comments here seem to assume that education is merely the acquisition of skills or knowledge. Sadly, a lot of college administrators have encouraged such a view, to the great detriment of learning. Part of the value of the college experience is that of learning *in community*. It’s about being exposed to the richness of life. That simply cannot be “replaced” or imparted by videos.

    I don’t mean to belittle the value of video technology for the transmitting of *certain kinds* of information. Video is great for narrative formats and, as commenters have cited, for certain kinds of learning processes. I use it to great effect in my own *lectures*. But right there is one of the limits. I would venture to say with more than 5 students at a time, the only effective online format is the lecture, in part because of the time consuming nature of content creation. Beyond that basic usage, video is greatly flawed as a teaching tool and it is certainly not effective for the vast majority of classes — or students.

  17. Luke

    Going by the CDC definition of death numbers, the Wuhan virus outbreak IS over as a pandemic, and is about to no longer qualify as even just an epidemic. Doesn’t everyone posting here know that?

  18. Billy

    Universities and colleges are suffering? Good!
    My father was wounded by Chinese troops in Korea and now his grandchildren can’t get into Cal Berkeley, in spite of excellent grades, because they are saving room for the grandchildren of the Chinese troops that he fought.

    America’s land grant universities should be for Americans citizens only, and be free of charge.

    1. Edward

      This can work both ways. Should foreign countries bar their colleges to Americans?

        1. Edward

          Yes , its true, “their …, their rules”, but is this desirable? It could be a bad outcome. There are probably winners and losers either way. Without spelling out the pros and cons you don’t know.

  19. eg

    Our eldest is enrolled in first year at what might be described as a mid-tier university (to the extent that such a term has any meaning in Canada) in our nation’s capital. She has a place in the reduced capacity residence system, and all instruction for first year students will be online.

    While we recognize that the arrangement is far from ideal, we much prefer it to the prospect of her spending another year of sullen, self-imposed isolation in her room here at home …

  20. Luke

    Not really discussed above is the curriculum difference between those schools. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc., are mostly “fuzzy studies”, or liberal arts. Conversely, Georgia Tech is almost completely STEM (excepting some bovine goo major only football majors take, and AFAIK ALL football majors declare). Lib arts, having no labs/hands-on anything, should be done online/self study at libraries anyway, at least at the undergraduate level where the students don’t know enough to ask questions. STEM, not so, outside of Math classes. (I am saying this as someone with B.S. and M.S. hard-science degrees.)

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