The Future Of College Is What, Exactly?
One of the really neat things about college is that there's really no one, single, correct way to go through it. If you want to freebase coffee grounds to get through an 8:00 a.m. statistics class 3 days a week, that's your choice. It's all part of becoming an adult, and you're there to learn how to learn, man. The past few decades have seen a massive increase in how American society has used college to give people a (costly) trial run at this whole adulthood thing, and now a big old wrench has been thrown into that whole system.
Thanks to Coronathon 2020, we've had to yank millions of kids out of their dorms and first apartments and away from their friends. So instead of spending time figuring out how to live on their own, many students have regressed to getting home-cooked meals, sleeping in their childhood beds, and doing laundry in machines that aren't getting trashed by some guy named Geoff's muddy club rugby clothes. There's only so much "real life" learning that can be done by having your folks hold your hand through it all -- and you don't want to end up with some kind of weird Bluth-esque situation.
There was a glimmer of hope that this move home would help students focus on the education thing, which is ostensibly why you're going to college in the first place, but that's mainly in the toilet thanks to this new distance learning. It's just logistically not possible for every student to get this down pat -- if there's a student back home on the west coast taking their NYU courses online, that 8:00 am stats class becomes a lot harder to be awake for. It's enough of a problem that even big-name schools such as Duke University and Carnegie Mellon are allowing courses that would typically be graded the option to be pass-fail for the spring semester, and it's a decision gaining popularity nationwide. Maybe taking a summer for schools to review how to tackle everything will help, but who knows?
Furthermore, what's the actual allure of a place like NYU now? If this coronavirus situation has negated the social appeal of New York City, then what's the point of paying a premium to attend? The same goes for party schools. If you're attending the University of Miami to double major in beer pong and one-night stands, that just not gonna be happening any time soon.
But what about the everyman state schools? Well, they're not doing so hot either. The University of Akron is facing a financial crunch due to the closure that's got it cutting or merging over half of its colleges. The University of Michigan is a pretty big system, and they're looking at literally a billion-dollar loss system-wide. This is all without mentioning the enormity of lost income schools are looking at from canceling March Madness and the potential loss or delay of a football season. Scoff at those things all you want, they're a big part of campus life for many schools, and "school spirit" really does mean something to a lot of
future donors regular people.
And for those who chose to attend a smaller college, things look pretty dire too. Schools such as Holy Family in Wisconsin and MacMurray College in Illinois are shutting down entirely -- a process that's never easy. Some smaller schools, such as Florida Tech, will be able to stay open but have to cut programs like athletics, meaning scholarship athletes may be out looking for new homes.
There are a lot of young adults looking ahead to this fall as a time when things can go back to normal for them, but there's no real way of knowing what things will be like then. Nobody learned how to manage a 21st-century global pandemic during Intro to Russian Lit sophomore year.
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