Reopen or face financial ruin?
That’s the tough decision many universities and colleges across the country are having to make, after losing millions in revenue from being shutdown since mid-March.
Many campuses have announced re-openings for in-person instruction that will take place in the late summer or fall.
In Texas, there are several major universities that will reopen. To name a few:
- University of Texas system
- Texas Women’s University
- Texas State University system
- Southern Methodist University
- Texas Christian University
- University of North Texas
- Texas Tech University
- Baylor University
- Texas A&M system
Some are opening in the late summer, others on Aug. 24.
All of these schools have announced there will be a mix between online classes and some in-person instruction, with social distancing and strict guidelines.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Gov. Greg Abbott has even said if things take a turn for the worse with the pandemic, schools need to be prepared to deal with that.
David Dillard, an education expert and president of KD College Prep, is trying to help graduating high school students across North Texas navigate the unknown.
For one, he’s urging high schoolers to embrace online learning and not give up on their future. State and federal aid are still available, so students can still find financial relief for school.
“We don’t want them to let go of their dreams. We don’t want them to postpone their dreams. They need to move ahead and learn how to adapt and equip themselves to deal with any environment,” he said. "Flexibility, adaptability, persistence and the willingness to fight through the challenges are going to be hallmarks of the students that succeed moving forward.”
He said schools are scrambling to come up with different options that allow them to pivot easily because they don’t know what’s going to happen.
“There are many colleges that were in financial distress before these events took place and this is the tipping point so they’ve got to be creative in how they approach it,” he said.
Dillard said he’s hearing of some inventive ways to colleges are moving forward, including the possibility of single occupancy dorms -- which means no more roommates. Students may also see changes to the way classes are scheduled in case the pandemic takes a turn by the winter.
“Where they have smaller number of classes taught and shorter blocks so that if there are interruptions, the students have a chance to have accomplished something and not jeopardize the entire semester,” he said. “There may be several disruptions, at least in the first year. And we don’t know how long this is going to linger.”
Dillard said enrollment numbers will also look very different in the coming year.
“They are going to have reduced enrollments because circumstances have changed. They know they’re going to have higher costs to deal with COVID. They know that they’re going to be responsible for professors and students and staff, many of them who are at risk. There are legal implications to taking on those challenges,” he said.
According to a recent survey, as many as a fifth of students who had been planning to start college in the fall may not even attend because of the pandemic and financial loss. The survey was conducted by Virginia-based higher-ed consulting firm, Simpson Scarborough.
Schools are working to address those enrollment issues.
For example, UT Arlington said it is doing everything it can to help students follow through with their goals, despite the challenges.
“Affordability and accessibility to higher education remain priorities at UTA. We are looking at ways that the university may be flexible with deadlines and due dates. Additionally, our office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, alongside our Student Money Management Center, are helping students each day, and they stand ready to help our students and families. We also have provided help to current UTA students in great need through our Emergency Assistance Fund,” the school said in a statement. “For our prospective and current students, it is important to reach out to us and let us know about their particular circumstances and let us do our best to help.”
UNT issued the following statement on addressing enrollment challenges:
It’s too early to know since we are still recruiting students for summer and fall. We are beginning to see signs that students and their families are engaging in the enrollment process again, but it will be many weeks before we have more accurate information regarding enrollments for fall. It is possible that there will be a transition in attendance based on students choosing to stay closer to home, and UNT is a great option for the many students from the North Texas region. Financial aid questions are handled based on student need, and those discussions continue every day with prospective students.
UT Dallas also issued a statement on the unknowns surrounding the fall semester:
While it’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost everyone, it is not clear how it will affect fall enrollment at UT Dallas. Because we know that many of our potential students’ lives have been disrupted during this time, we have delayed our fall application deadlines. We appreciate the resilience and commitment of Comets and future Comets.
Dillard also said he'll be keeping an eye on how colleges are actually going to police safety measures, with so many people on one campus.
“I actually have more faith in the college being able to demonstrate their abilities to deal with this than I do the population that is coming on campus as students. That age group is not usually as concerned about these things,” Dillard said. “There will be ramifications for students that aren’t willing to live by the new rules. Colleges will have no choice but to uphold those.”