When COVID-19 reared its ugly head a couple months ago, most people assumed it would gradually dissipate, allowing for life to resume as usual sooner rather than later. As time progresses and the virus continues to saturate our society, it is becoming quite clear things will not go back to normal any time soon. In particular, COVID-19 is dramatically changing our education system.
COVID-19’s Impact on College Campuses
Can you imagine a future in which college campuses are empty but for the occasional sporting event in fan-less arenas? This might be our reality for a year, a couple years or possibly indefinitely. If a COVID-19 vaccine is not developed in the months and years to come, it is quite possible college students will be barred from returning to campus. In other words, virtual learning is likely to be the new norm for college students as well as secondary schools.
Will the 2021 School Year be Delayed?
Pay close attention to the news and you will find the talking heads discussing the fact that a COVID-19 vaccine is at least 14 to 18 months away from development, testing and widespread application. This means an on-time start to the 2021 school year is somewhat unlikely. There is no sense bringing youngsters back to the classroom when social distancing is impossible in such cramped spaces. If the kids were to contract the virus while away from home, they would inevitably bring it right back to their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Some have suggested it might be possible to “roll” groups of students back into classrooms after several months of quarantining. Here’s how it would work: a designated group of students quarantines for several months then returns to school for a semester. The group then takes two months off from school while an alternate group that had quarantined the prior two months returns to school. This idea has a bit of merit, yet its unconventionality is likely to prove unpopular with parents, teachers and students alike.
The bottom line is there will be considerable risk to bringing students back to educational institutions across the country at any point before a COVID-19 vaccine and/or treatment are developed. In other words, the upcoming school year is likely to be delayed.
The Tuition Deposit Situation
Take a moment to put yourself in the position of a college student or the parent of a college student. Your hard-earned money is deposited for the school year before any learning takes place. COVID-19 hits the nation and you or your child are forced to head back home where you must quarantine while attending virtual learning sessions over the internet. This is not the college experience you plunked down your hard-earned money for. Furthermore, virtual learning is not as effective as in-person learning.
If you are like most college students and parents, you would expect that your tuition money would be returned or at least partially refunded as the promised “college experience” on campus was not provided. However, as evidenced by this childish response from the dean of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, it does not appear as though college students/parents will receive a tuition refund. It is quite possible students and parents will end up suing colleges in an attempt to get some or all of their tuition deposits refunded.
Will College Students Come Back?
This is the pressing question. If campuses are not re-opened in full, college students and their parents alike will begin to question why they should pay egregious sums of money for virtual learning. It is quite possible college students will drop out of their current schools and enroll in comparably cheap online learning programs that provide similar instruction as traditional colleges yet do not have a tangible campus.
It is interesting to note some professors are unfamiliar with the basics of the technology required for virtual learning. These out of touch academicians are being forced to learn the nuances of the internet and online learning tools on-the-fly. There is a chance a substantial percentage of college students will be hesitant to return to reopened college campuses due to an understandable fear of exposure to the virus. In other words, bookworm professors might be forced to embrace virtual learning tools in the months and years ahead in order to provide students with online instruction.
The takeaway from this story is future of school might be web-based as opposed to in-person. Those who adjust to this massive society-wide pivot will be the winners. Those who refuse to change with the times will struggle quite mightily.