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COVID-19 dominates the news for colleges as well as the country as a whole.  The rates of positive coronavirus tests are the highest for minors.  The highest rate is for children 5 - 17, next highest is minors 5 – 17, followed by individuals 18 – 49 years of age.

























There is no crystal ball to see how this might play out, but here are some potential ramifications for postsecondary institutions in the 2020-21 school year:

  • Some schools will not open for in-person classes.  Some colleges and universities might not open for in person classes for various reasons, which include:  being located in an area with community spread, lack of testing, lack of hospital beds, lack of safe means of transportation to and from school, inability of residential schools to provide safe student housing, and inability to safely distance students and staff.  Here is guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on colleges and universities:


  • Some schools might partially open.  Some classes may be deemed to be too large to be safe for students or staff.  Since those large classes might not offer much of a chance for discussion anyhow, they might be offered by video while smaller classes meet in person and follow distancing guidelines. Smaller classes might be held live and in person for some students while other students, and possibly the professor, participate in the same course online.  Likely people participating online include:  people in quarantine, people with preconditions or advanced age that put them at the greatest risk if they contract COVID-19, and people who are risk-averse.  Even small classes could present a problem in the event that they are not held in rooms large enough to accommodate social distancing.  An additional possibility is that the school will open, but student housing will not open.


  • Financial and staffing strain.  Some families might choose to not matriculate to a relatively expensive private postsecondary institution in 2020, or they might opt for an institution close to home at the last minute to avoid student housing.  This could lead to sharp reductions in enrollment at some postsecondary institutions while there could be increases in enrollments at other institutions.  The reductions in enrollments would lead to a loss of tuition revenue.  Some postsecondary institutions might fail financially as a result.

Relatively affordable public institutions may see their enrollments increase and may face simultaneous reductions in State aid because of the economic consequences of COVID-19.  In the past, high levels of unemployment have led to high levels of enrollment in relatively affordable postsecondary institutions.  Staff at some public postsecondary institutions believe that they might need to educate more students while simultaneously laying off staff.

  • Upperclassmen may be online while freshman matriculate.  Some students who had to quickly switch from in-person classes to online classes report a surprising level of continuity not only with classes, but with clubs and social connections with peers.  Having the freshmen matriculate while the upperclassmen are online would be consistent with the practice of providing freshmen first choice of living on campus. It also reduces the number of students on campus, which could make social distancing possible.  Some schools would also view this as a way to increase revenue since freshmen will be more likely to enroll if they can have in person classes while upperclassmen may feel “stuck.”



  • Eliminating all breaks within a semester/quarter.  Having students going home and coming back creates an opportunity for them to catch and spread COVID-19 in one location and to spread it in another.  Keeping all students on campus through the duration of a semester helps to reduce that risk.  Numerous schools have announced that students will be sent home for the remainder of the semester just prior to Thanksgiving.


  • Institutional financial aid offers for students in families that suffer a change in their financial situation may be weak.  Generally if a family suffers financial hardship after financial aid awards have been made, they have the opportunity to seek financial aid due to the change or to seek a higher level of financial assistance.  At some point, institutions might run out of the amount of institutional aid they have provided in the past.  The website for Federal student aid encourages students to contact their schools about changing economic situations, so there may be an opportunity to obtain additional Federal aid even if one cannot obtain additional institutional aid.


  • Jim Welch, a biosafety and biosecurity expert affiliated with Georgetown University, speaks to the importance of keeping the rate of transmitting Covid-19 and future viruses down.   He personally believes that important measures in this area includes treating individuals in room suites with their own bathrooms as a family unit.  Other rooms that used to be double rooms will likely become single rooms.  Space to quarantine students is important to maintain so that there is a place to segregate students who are contagious and to avoid sending contagious students back home where they could spread the virus.  Cafeterias would need to have seating removed so that they do not serve as a place for students to congregate.  (Webinar on July 9, 2020)

In the event that large numbers of students do not matriculate in Fall 2020 and concerns about COVID-19 dissipate by 2021, the number of students applying for admission to matriculate in the Fall of 2021 might increase, causing a spike in competition for admission.  Some of that competition will be the result of students who deferred admission and some of that competition will come from students who started at local colleges and are seeking to transfer to the school of their choice if concerns about COVID-19 are not as great.  Some education experts think that around 200 postsecondary institutions will fail because of small enrollments in the 2020-21 school year.  The reduction in institutions could make competition for admission even fiercer in the 2021-22 school year if the concerns about COVID-19 have declined by then.  Hiring an Independent Educational Consultant can help best position you for admission for schools that are a good fit.  Please contact us to see how we might help you.

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