A big focus for colleges and universities during the coronavirus pandemic shutdown has been on how students and professors are adjusting to the shift from campus life to online education. A newer focus is on seniors losing out on traditional graduation ceremonies and facing an uncertain future.
With this unprecedented year winding down, the focus will shift again, to whether the institution of higher education itself will require radical changes.
The first possible profound change has to do with the real possibility that the college financial model can’t survive the pandemic, as The New York Times has reported. Some unknown number of the two- and four-year colleges and universities now educating 20 million students in the U.S. may not survive.
That’s due to the depletion of endowments of universities that have had to refund room and board — and cuts in state funding, such as the 10% reduction for the UC and CSU systems just proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It also stems from the likely loss of many of the 1.1 million international students, most from Asia, who pay the highest tuition.
These students pay so much more than in-state students that one of UC leaders’ central responses to budget cuts in 2008 during the Great Recession was to nearly double out-of-state students as part of a long-term fiscal strategy. Forget about that now.