• SSTI poll shows overwhelming support for innovation platform

    More than 90 percent of the electorate support expanded efforts to strengthen the key elements of a knowledge-driven economy. Members can sign up for a webinar on how the poll can inform your communications.

  • Become an SSTI Member

    As the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development, SSTI offers the services that are needed to help build tech-based economies.  Learn more about membership...

  • A directory of responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

    SSTI is cultivating this directory of federal, private and state actions and resources broadly affecting tech-based economic development efforts.

  • Subscribe to the SSTI Weekly Digest

    Each week, the SSTI Weekly Digest delivers the latest breaking news and expert analysis of critical issues affecting the tech-based economic development community. Subscribe today!

Students in limbo as fall return–to–campus plans upended by pandemic

May 07, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

As college students close out highly disrupted spring semesters, higher education institutions across the country are trying to determine what the fall semester will entail, which has proven to be tricky at best. On campus or online instruction, hybrid plans and increased protections for students’ wellbeing are all topics administrators are grappling with in the midst of the pandemic. Meanwhile, prospective students are up in the air regarding their plans, as well, with a recent report revealing that domestic undergraduate enrollment for four-year institutions could decline 20 percent.

A report from SimpsonScarborough, a higher education research, branding and marketing agency, showed that one in 10 U.S. high school seniors who were planning to attend a four-year college or university prior to the pandemic have already made alternative plans, with nearly half planning to attend a community college, about a third planning to enroll in an online college, and the remainder thinking they may not attend college at all this fall. The firm sampled high school seniors and current residential college students in March and replicated the survey a month later to better understand “how perceptions were evolving….” Findings in March indicated that 14 percent of college students said they were unlikely to return to their current college or university in the fall; in April that figure was 26 percent.

Elizabeth Johnson, chairman of SimpsonScarborough, says in a letter introducing the data that the purpose of sharing the information “is not to fear monger, but to help institutions prepare for the magnitude of what may come.” She goes on to say that the findings are volatile and expected to continue to evolve all the way to the start of the traditional school year.

From current indications, the coming school year may be anything but traditional. Even those who plan to return to campus in the fall temper those expectations with caveats based on national guidelines and changing circumstances due to the coronavirus. Some universities are expecting to make a decision regarding their fall plans over the summer months. And at least one state system is hoping to attract students to an on-campus experience with in-state tuition for anyone whose college has permanently closed.

The University of Maine System is launching an in-state tuition “college dream completion program” dubbed The Maine Welcome, which will provide resident tuition status to any successful U.S. college student or law student displaced by a COVID-19-related permanent closure of a U.S. institution of higher education. The system has said it plans to welcome students back to campus in the fall, “if group gatherings and interactions are permissible and advisable at that time.”

“College instability has never been a bigger threat to student success,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy in a press release accompanying the announcement about The Maine Welcome. “The higher education marketplace was in the midst of a disruptive transition before a global health pandemic upended the spring semester and eliminated billions of dollars in campus revenues at colleges and universities. Institutions serving tens of thousands of learners will unfortunately close and successful students are going to need a place to fulfill their college dreams.”

The Southern New Hampshire University is offering a one-time Innovation Scholarship for incoming freshmen, which will cover 100 percent of their tuition under a new hybrid plan that allows them to live on campus, but attend classes online. In a message to incoming freshmen SNHU noted that, “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the great uncertainty facing higher education, SNHU is accelerating its work to redefine the traditional campus-based learning model and provide more affordable, flexible, and accessible options for students and families.” A lower-tuition rate of approximately $10,000 per year will allow them to finish their degrees at a much lower rate than SNHU’s traditional on-campus tuition rate of $31,000 per year.

As colleges tackle what the coming academic year will look like, The Chronicle of Higher Education is publishing those plans as they become available, and has made that page open to the public.

higher ed, coronavirus