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Happy July, everyone! Unfortunately, I'm convinced that this month will be one of the worst months that American higher education has experienced in a long time. Thread alert. (1/)
First up, the coronavirus is out of control in much of the country. The number of cases has spiked along with the percent of positive tests. Having been in an area in which sympathy cards were sold out for months, that's scary. (2/)
Even if states pull back on reopening restaurants, bars, and workplaces, it's going to be several weeks before the curve gets reflattened. That puts us in August quickly. (3/)
Turning to higher ed, there have been lots of examples of the virus spreading among sports teams and at parties and bars. Some of these can be controlled by colleges, but most can't. (4/)
The federal government may at least provide some funding for virus testing to support higher ed, but the Senate GOP thinks a bill won't be ready for a month. That's too late. And states are pretty well tapped out. (5/)
Many colleges are still steadfastly clinging to a mainly in-person or "hyflex" fall semester, even though the virus is rapidly upending that hope. Blue state governors may step in to block reopening, while even some red state governors may do the same. (6/)
A key wild card here is the NCAA. If they cancel college football, a number of colleges would quickly announce an online fall. But nobody wants to make the hard decision. (7/)
Having to make the hard decisions will be the theme for July. Colleges need time to get physical campuses ready for whoever is allowed to be there, and that isn't cheap. And colleges need time to get a good online model together that's better than spring. (8/)
I wrote back in May that I expected most colleges to move most fall courses online, prioritizing the most crucial courses and students. I said July was the month of reckoning then, and it's still true.… (9/)
Some colleges will have to go first by announcing their plans. Community colleges have led on this, but of course they don't get the attention they deserve. They can't afford risk mitigation and won't lose students for going online. (10/)
Among elite colleges, Bowdoin announced that most students will be online in the fall and Williams did a similar thing...with a 15% price cut. They can afford to do it, and few can follow. Meanwhile, Colby is swooping in to spend millions on testing to woo students. (11/)
Public colleges relying on out-of-state students and less-prestigious private colleges are trying to wait. Announcing first runs the risk of losing students to colleges that are postponing the inevitable. (12/)
But that dam will have to break soon. Then come the big hits to higher ed. Colleges will have to deal with pushback from state legislators and alumni who are pro-reopening after dealing with pushback from faculty and staff from the other side this summer. (13/)
Residential colleges will take a devastating hit. Auxiliary revenues will go to near zero for another several months, resulting in layoffs--not just furloughs--of a lot of employees. (14/)
Tuition revenue overall may be decent as students stay enrolled due to a poor economy. State funding could get more painful with more shutdowns, and gifts/donations depend so much on the state of the economy. I wrote more on revenue sources here.… (15/)
Cuts everywhere will be painful. I got a cut to my salary and retirement benefits in the last month, and my university just laid off ten percent of all staff and administrators. This sucks, but I appreciate not trying to sweep problems under the rug. (16/)
I think we made it through June with just two college closures announced: branch campuses of Johnson & Wales.… July won't be so fortunate. (17/)
Public colleges generally won't be allowed to close, and mergers and consolidations take longer. Some state systems may come out okay if students stay close to home and choose them over more expensive options. (18/)
Small, residential, non-wealthy private colleges are at incredibly high risk of closing if they can't bring students to campus in August. I put together a spreadsheet of their reliance on auxiliary revenue sources like housing and dining.… (19/)
July is generally a terrible time to announce college closures since students are typically stuck with few other options. Some colleges may stay online through spring 2021 to finish students out, which is a responsible course of action. (20/)
And other colleges may close right away. But at least in this situation, students can choose from a bunch of online options from colleges that are looking for additional tuition revenue. So it could be worse, I guess? (21/)
But these closures--whether for the fall or forever--will devastate their communities. These colleges are economic and cultural engines for rural America, and closures can further widen the already massive rural/urban divide. (22/)
I should probably start wrapping up this thread fairly soon. The good news is that the coronavirus pandemic will hopefully come to an end by the end of this upcoming academic year and that there are a lot of smart people working to make that happen. (23/)
The bad news is that I just don't see a way that many classes can be in person in the fall. Colleges just need to make the announcement and hope that their peers don't try to profit off them announcing just a little earlier. (24/)
Students need to know what is going on before any more of them sign leases for the fall. Faculty and staff need time to prepare the best online classes possible. And it would be humane to give layoff notices farther in advance. (25/)
Let's focus all of our available resources on getting child care centers and P-12 education back running in person in the fall to the greatest extent possible. Higher ed can't fully run without this happening, anyway. (26/)
To close, July is going to be a brutal and exhausting month for an already beaten up higher ed community. But by acknowledging reality now, at least we have time to prepare for the best fall possible. Thanks for reading! (27/27)
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