The new school year brings new challenges for colleges and universities. When COVID-19 hit and thousands of education institutions rushed to move classes online, preparations were already underway for potential remote classes in the fall. But now that potential has become a reality. Institutions are navigating new policies and pressures to facilitate distance learning and hybrid learning at scale – all while administrative staff work from home.
In many respects, the costs of these obligations have remained steady or even increased, while available funds have sharply declined. Stagnant state funding, lower applications and enrollment, and pressure to decrease tuition over the past years have placed incredible financial strain on institutions and also led to consolidation or closure. On top of this, one in four higher education institutions had no financial contingency plan when COVID-19 hit, according to EAB.
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And now – with few students living on campus and paying for housing – a large source of college revenue has dried up. Further, some institutions have been forced to issue refunds when the ability to hold in-person classes rapidly reversed due to outbreaks. According to University President Gayle Hutchinson, California State University, Chico recently cancelled its limited number of in-person classes just one week into the semester due to an outbreak and will provide prorated refunds for room and board.