Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

College (And Law School) Campuses Must Reopen In The Fall. Here’s How We Do It.

New York Times op-ed:  College Campuses Must Reopen in the Fall. Here’s How We Do It., by Christina Paxson (President, Brown):

CoronavirusIt won’t be easy, but there’s a path to get students back on track. Higher education will crumble without it.

Across the country, college campuses have become ghost towns. Students and professors are hunkered down inside, teaching and learning online. University administrators are tabulating the financial costs of the Covid-19 pandemic, which already exceed the CARES Act’s support for higher education.

The toll of this pandemic is high and will continue to rise. But another crisis looms for students, higher education and the economy if colleges and universities cannot reopen their campuses in the fall.

As amazing as videoconferencing technology has become, students face financial, practical and psychological barriers as they try to learn remotely. This is especially true for lower-income students who may not have reliable internet access or private spaces in which to study. If they can’t come back to campus, some students may choose — or be forced by circumstances — to forgo starting college or delay completing their degrees.

The extent of the crisis in higher education will become evident in September. The basic business model for most colleges and universities is simple — tuition comes due twice a year at the beginning of each semester. Most colleges and universities are tuition dependent. Remaining closed in the fall means losing as much as half of our revenue.

This loss, only a part of which might be recouped through online courses, would be catastrophic, especially for the many institutions that were in precarious financial positions before the pandemic. It’s not a question of whether institutions will be forced to permanently close, it’s how many. ...

The reopening of college and university campuses in the fall should be a national priority. Institutions should develop public health plans now that build on three basic elements of controlling the spread of infection: test, trace and separate. ...

Taking these necessary steps will be difficult and costly, and it will force institutions to innovate as we have never done before. But colleges and universities are up to the challenge. Campuses were among the first to shutter during the Covid-19 pandemic. The rapid response that occurred across the country stemmed from our concern for the health of our students and communities, and our recognition that college campuses pose special challenges for addressing infectious disease.

Our duty now is to marshal the resources and expertise to make it possible to reopen our campuses, safely, as soon as possible. Our students, and our local economies, depend on it.

Inside Higher Ed, A Growing Number of College Announce Intent to Reopen in the Fall:

A growing number of colleges [Baylor, Georgia Fox, James Madison, Midwestern State, Purdue, Radford, Wheaton, William Jewell] announced plans to reopen their campuses for the fall semester, in some cases using language that was more definitive than previously seen in higher education so far in the crisis.

For complete TaxProf Blog coverage of the coronavirus, see here.

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