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Will Students Ever “Go” To College Again?

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Will Students Ever “Go” To College Again?

Will Students Ever “Go” To College Again?
May 06
16:37 2020

As extreme as that may sound, there are experts of one stripe or another suggesting that campus life may be a thing of the past – a permanent victim of the Covid-19 virus.  If the pandemic leads to a permanent culture of social separation based on panic-driven paranoia, colleges and universities may find it impossible to accommodate a normal number of on-campus students – much like restaurants cannot survive if they have to keep patrons six feet apart.

Let’s face it, campus life is as much an appeal as the academic reputation of the school.  The entire purpose of campus life is to intermingle with peers for the exchange of ideas, experiences and … on occasion … body fluids.

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Every university in the nation publishes sales brochures showing students in close proximity to one another – in classrooms, dormitories, fraternity parties, sports and just hanging out together.  These brochures entice applicants with social events, field trips, hands-on labs, theatre productions, bonfires, rallies and dances.

Social separation is avoided like the plague (with apologies for the analogy).  In fact, those students who seem to be too self-isolating may get a visit from the psychiatric counselor.  Campus life represents a time and place for intense socialization –and that cannot be done living in an intangible 12-foot bubble.

With the impossible task of keeping all students six feet apart, what can the schools do this Fall?

The most obvious answer is computer-based learning – and simply forego all the social contact stuff.  That is not a new concept, many schools offer computer courses.  That is fine for those who sign up for that method – and pay the relatively modest fees for the services.

But what about those who have paid tens of thousands of dollars for the campus-based education and the more intimate contact with fellow students and professors – those who have been promised those field trips and social events?  Those who want to join clubs and play sports? They want what they paid for.

The result is thousands of lawsuits against the colleges and universities who are currently unwilling to provide what they promised in those expensive brochures.  Some students and applicants want partial refunds.  Some want all their money back.  They feel betrayed … cheated.  They are not wrong.

Especially aggrieved are those who took on the burden of large student loans.  They could be spending years paying off for an education they never got.  They will be paying off a Rolls Royce even though they got a used Chevy.

Addressing the current and incoming students is one problem.  But what about future enrollees.  University administrators must know that they will not be able to command those high tuition fees in the future if they only offer limited educational programs via computer.  They will not be able to retain those over-priced professors who rarely show up in the classroom because they are securing grants and writing books – or showing up as regular panelists on cable shows.

Before you start shedding tears for academia, however, keep in mind how they were increasing their tuition fees to suck up that money Uncle Sam was funneling through unaware students.  Oh, they knew they were borrowing a lot of money to meet the skyrocketing college fees, but they may not have realized that they were just the conduit to pass the money from the taxpayers to the schools.

Even before Covid-19, there were growing concerns among the younger folks that college educations were not the greatest investment for a lot of folks.  They were paying to become executives and professionals but discovered that all their degrees were getting them were jobs as car salesmen and restaurant workers.

If in the future, colleges and universities are forced to cut their budgets, lower their fees and tighten up their academic program – and get back to traditional campus life — Covid-19 may have had at least one silver lining.

So, there ‘tis.

 

About Author

Larry Horist

Larry Horist

Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at lph@thomasandjoyce.com.

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