The effect of the COVID-19 crisis on education in the US has been nothing short of radical. Colleges get ready to reopen for the fall semester with many unprecedented changes. A sizable percentage of students will not attend any in-person classes. These scholars are choosing to stay home and take classes online. Here’s a look at the changes that are sweeping through higher education.
The fall semester starts
Colleges vary in their dates and plans for reopening for the fall 2020 semester. The Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed more than 860 colleges starting June. It found that only about a third of them plan to conduct in-person classes. 7% intended to hold online classes while most others were unsure or yet to make a decision.
According to US News, some colleges like the Michigan State University and Boston University will implement a hybrid system in which some of their classes will be offered online and the remaining will be held in-person. On the other hand most colleges in California will offer a majority of their fall courses online. These include the California State University and the colleges in the University of California system (such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego). UCLA said that only around 20% of its classes will be conducted in-person.
College will be different this fall
The fall 2020 college experience will be unprecedented. The most obvious difference will be the primarily online nature of coursework. However, this is not all. Activities such as freshmen orientation and club recruitment will also be done online. The fall 2020 in-person classes, wherever available, will be smaller in size. This is because of decreased enrollment as well as social distancing limits on class size. SimpsonScarborough, a marketing company for higher education, predicts that four-year courses may see a 20% drop in enrollments. This is based on a survey of more than 2,000 college students and high school seniors.
Arguably international students will be the most affected by these changes. Each year millions of foreign students come to the US for higher studies. Their overseas sponsors send money online to support them through college. This is likely to change. The Institute of International Education conducted a survey and found that 88% of colleges expect to see a decrease in the enrollment of international students during the coming semesters. Furthermore, about 70% of the survey respondents opined that international students will face greater challenges. With local students being given preference to attend in-person classes, the number of vacancies for international students (as well as the incentives to study abroad) would decline.
Preparing for college
The transition from school to college is often challenging for both students and parents. Getting ready for the fall semester is going to be a bit unconventional this year. Many students will prepare to attend purely online classes. They won’t travel to campuses at all. Those who do plan to travel will pack their laptops first.
Even while on campus students would need to ensure good internet connectivity to attend online classes. With less face-to-face interaction with faculty and coordinators, students would need to find online resources to rely on. One of the first steps would be to create a contact email list of useful campus contacts. Losing or crashing a laptop would be a high severity incident for a student. Some colleges have recognized these challenges and offered support. UC Berkeley has a Student Technology Equity Program (STEP) that provides laptops, convenient Wi-Fi hotspots, and other important resources to its students. Some institutions also offer financial assistance to students to purchase laptops.
The fall semester will be the start of several unprecedented practices. This will be a valuable learning experience for all stakeholders including students, parents, professors, and institutions. An important goal of higher education is to prepare students to be effective professionals. The fall 2020 semester will be an important stepping stone in this direction. The face of the workplace is changing radically. Employers’ preferences are shifting toward remote work, contractual work, and online gig work. Students must make the most of the fall semester. They must learn to harness the digital space not only to get an education, but to engage in extracurricular activities, make friends, and find paid work.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.