How COVID-19 is Affecting Colleges: Closures, Bankruptcies, and More

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in the United States, many colleges and universities are considering postponing on-campus activities, including classes, until 2021. With summer classes and programs being cancelled across the nation, it is unlikely that the fall semester will begin without complications. 

March 22, Boston University (BU) became the first institution to announce its consideration of postponing in-person classes until January 2021. BU president Robert Brown has since created five working groups that are contributing to a COVID-19 “Recovery Plan.” These groups are tasked with investigating possible methods of remote learning and its impacts on the student body. 

Since this announcement, many other colleges and universities, including Harvard University, Oregon State University and The University of Arizona, have issued similar statements. 

According to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, who surveyed 210 colleges and universities, 5% of colleges have committed to online classes for the fall semester. California State University, Fullerton, is one of these schools. 

“Our plan is to enter [the fall] virtually,” Pamella Oliver, the school’s provost, told National Public Radio. “Of course, that could change depending on the situation, depending on what happens with COVID-19. But at this point, that’s what we’re thinking.”

While many universities deliberate over how to facilitate instruction in the fall, other institutions face more daunting issues. Congress recently provided $14 billion for higher education in the rescue bill titled CARES Act, signed by President Trump, however, this amounts to just one percent of each university’s total expenses. Many college presidents stress that the amount is not enough to keep institutions from removing their expenses at extreme levels; cutting scholarships, losing staff, or even forced bankruptcy. 

According to USA Today, in light of financial challenges caused by the coronavirus, the University of Cincinnati terminated its men’s soccer program, as did St. Edward’s University in Texas, who also cut its golf and tennis teams. The University of Arizona announced it would lay off employees, while the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges System suggested closing three Vermont campuses. 

With so much uncertainty as to the virus’ long-term impacts and whether public health officials will be able to get the virus under control by fall, very few definitive plans as to the continuation of higher education in America have been made. It is important for college students, current and incoming, to be aware of updates from their institutions.