Colleges Shift Online After Uptick of Coronavirus Cases

Both colleges and students may take a financial hit due to a shift online, experts say.
Posted at 5:31 PM, Aug 19, 2020

The University of Notre Dame has paused on-campus instruction for at least two weeks due to an uptick of coronavirus cases, and more institutions could follow. 

At Notre Dame, where students were required to submit a negative test before returning to the Indiana campus, officials report the uptick can be traced to off-campus gatherings where social distancing and masks weren’t enforced. But some experts say the blame should also be shared by the school administrators and the federal, state, and local policy responses to fighting the virus.

“It’s a little bit like a pilot taking off into a hurricane and then blaming the grounds crew for not doing enough to keep the plane safe," said Kevin McClure, associate professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. "I think we have to ask the question, Who decided to take off in the hurricane?” 

“The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled in-person classes for the fall semester earlier this week. Students say faculty, campus workers and students had been warning administrators for weeks that their reopening plans wouldn’t cut it.” 

“This road map is not detailed enough, not specific enough, there’s not enough information to safely reopen, and people’s lives are going to be in danger," Maddie Ellis, a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Both colleges and students may take a financial hit due to a shift online. Institutions could see lower enrollments and less room-and-board fees, and young people might be stuck in an off-campus lease near a now-shuttered campus or have to pay to move back home. 

Plus, administrators may have been focusing on things like acquiring new signage and hand sanitizer and less on getting ready for online classes. 

“When you invest those resources upfront on preparing for face-to-face instruction and then you have a shift to online, that's time and resources that could have been spent on preparing for a really high-quality online experience,” said Justin Ortagus, Director of the Institute of Higher Education at The University of Florida.

Amy Morona, Newsy, Washington