Drew University in New Jersey, where I currently study, is going through big administration changes. The biggest change happening this summer is the departure of the current Drew president, Dr. MaryAnn Baenninger. Dr. Baenninger is leaving Drew after six years, on July 31st, 2020. This departure combined with the current pandemic, made me think about being the leader of a university…if only for a day! Since I am very interested in finance/economics, and this is a hot topic these days and it is closely related to my internship, I decided to dedicate this blog to this topic. I will look at the situation from both the president’s/university’s point of view as well as from the student’s/parent’s view.
Let’s start with the university view. Universities have three options for the fall 2020 semester. 1) They fully reopen and hold classes in-person. 2) They will follow the so-called “hybrid” mode, where 50% of the classes will be held in-person and 50% online. 3) The universities will decide to have the entire fall/spring semester on-line. Possibly, there are other options for the schools, but those are the mostly discussed and realistic ones as of now.
Naturally, the universities want to keep all the revenue and the price of tuition, room and board, facility services, etc., the same, as it was prior to the pandemic, or at least not decrease it. However, that will be very difficult for the institutions if they will follow scenario 2 and 3. Even in scenario 1, it will be challenging if all of the facilities and services do not resume to their fullest capacity and the students won’t be able to use them (e.g. labs, sport facilities, dining halls, dorms, you name it), as it was the case before the pandemic started. And that is almost certainly not going to happen at most or all U.S. universities during the fall semester (who knows how the spring semester will look…).
As for the university president’s point of view, the finances is not the only aspect that needs to be considered. The second, or should I say the primary, crucial aspect, is the health of the faculty members, university employees, students, and the student athletes. What is the probability that the groups, I just mentioned, get sick, when the universities decide for scenario 1 or 2, even if all or most of the restrictions and instructions, and hygienic procedures will be strictly followed? That is a question that I don’t know the answer to. There are a lot of speculations. But one thing is clear, there is a high risk that the coronavirus will spread across those campuses if the universities reopen.
On the other hand, let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of the students and their parents for a moment, and look at how they perceive this problematic/challenging situation. Over the past month or two, I have been in close touch with students from all around the world (Vietnam, China, South Korea, India, Europe, Africa, etc.) and talked to them about this topic. The answers and opinions vary, but there are some commonalities that stand out. For example, many students feel like they are being short changed, they don’t get an equivalent value for what they pay to the universities, if the fall semester will be 100% on-line or in hybrid mode, and both the domestic and the international students will have to stay at their homes or in their home countries and won’t be able to use and enjoy all the perks and services of a university campus, or only in a very limited way.
Moreover, the parents of those students are worried and unhappy, too. In many cases, parents are financially supporting their children’s studies in the U.S. and they want their kids to be able to go back to their university’s campus and get a high-quality in-person education that their kids are used to. Furthermore, a lot of parents and students are turning back to the institutions they attend, and ask for reimbursements or demand in-person classes instead of on-line classes. This definitely puts a lot of pressure on the universities, but at the same time, it is very understandable since the students and their parents are spending big amounts of money and want to receive their return on the investment.
What is the future of higher education and will it ever return back to normal? Let’s see.
If I were a university president, I would have taken the following steps: 1) I would do everything possible to reopen the campuses and get all the U.S. and international students currently residing in the U.S. back to the institutions. 2) By reopening the campuses and offering in-person classes, all the students who are currently in their home countries could return in the fall (the vast majority wants to do that), unless the specific country where the students live, would not allow that (or the embassies would not issue new visas/flights to the U.S. would not be renewed).
By doing this, I, as the university president, would ensure that the customers (students and their families) are satisfied and are not short changed. In addition, the university would gain significantly higher revenue this way, covering most of the costs, or all costs in some cases, which would help the universities to survive this economic and higher education crisis. The risk of a second wave of coronavirus is, and always will be there, regardless of universities’ decision to stay closed and offer on-line services only, or to fully reopen. In life we sometimes have to risk a lot to gain something we want. Can it go horribly wrong and can reopening of U.S. colleges and the return of hundreds of thousands of domestic and international students cause another big coronavirus outbreak? Yes, possibly. But can it all end up well, help the students, universities, and the U.S. economy, when it is really needed? For sure.
In this blog, I’m focusing on the universities, students and their families and what they can and want to do. I am aware of the fact that there are many other factors, such as the U.S. government, U.S. embassy, availability of flights to and out of the U.S., new outbreaks, states governors, etc., that will affect the future of the students and the universities, and how the fall semester in the U.S. will look like.But, all those factors are out of the universities and students’ control. Therefore, I believe that the universities and students should focus on what THEY can do and change, and let the rest go.
In conclusion, I’d like to remind all the readers of this blog that this is only my personal opinion based on my experience and the many conversations I have been having with international students since I started my CPT experience.
More info about me and Global Student Recruitment Advisors below:
You probably wonder who I am and why am I writing this blog. My name is Leoš Malec. I am from Prague, Czechia, and I am currently a rising senior at Drew University, in Madison, New Jersey, USA. I major in Economics, and double minor in Business and German. Right now, I am doing my summer CPT internship focused on finance, investment, and marketing at Global Student Recruitment Advisors, LLC (GSRA). To learn more about GSRA click here, to learn more about me and my background please click on the link here and find my advisor profile at the bottom of the page. Moreover, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, link to my profile here, and/or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at email@example.com, if you have any questions and/or comments.