Column: Higher education during COVID-19

Every day feels like the last and I can no longer keep track of time. The coronavirus pandemic has taken over all facets of my life: social, political, and academic.

All my conversations have simmered down to “how is the pandemic treating you?” And my only human contact is over zoom video conferences in lieu of in-person classes.

It’s not only the tirade that illness has already imposed on us, but the impending threat of an economic depression that haunts me. According to the New York Times, the White House Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin predicts that the unemployment rate may reach 25% — equal to the great depression.

Jennifer, an 18-year-old who requested omit her last name, has already taken a massive toll from the economic loss of COVID-19.

“I got offers from my dream colleges, but after my parents lost both their jobs [in the span of] two months, it wasn’t possible financially,” Jennifer said.

She, instead, took an offer from a safety school that offered her a scholarship which offset her family’s financial loss. 

Jennifer isn’t alone. As the pandemic requires aspiring and current college students to stay at home, both the institutions and attendees suffer massive losses.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the high-ranking University of Michigan is set to lose approximately $1 million dollars by the end of the year. For the University of Kentucky, it’s $70 million. 

In the CARES Relief Bill, Congress allocated $30 billion to education. The American Council of Education calls these funds “woefully inadequate.”

The group, along with 40 others, has lobbied for an additional $46 billion in emergency education aid.

ACE President Ted Mitchell has noted [CARES Act] was inadequate to support student needs such as housing, technology assistance for online learning, or travel, and to support institutions that are losing staggering sums after closing for safety reasons and refunding tuition, room and board, and other auxiliary revenues,” the letter said. 

Another worry is the continuation of online classes going into the 2020-2021 school year.

“I don’t think there’s any scenario under which it’s business as usual on American college campuses in the fall,” Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist and physician at Yale University said to NPR. “This idea — that we can somehow just get back to normal and go back to school in the fall, because we always have, it’s not reasonable, actually. I think we’re going to have to figure out other ways of doing this.”

It’s inevitable that coronavirus will drastically alter the face of higher education. The question is how it will affect hardworking and bright students like Jennifer.

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